US Air Force

Samuel "Sam" Francis Zarilla

April 17, 1933 ~ October 31, 2019 (age 86)


Samuel “Sam” Francis Zarilla, 85, suffered a fatal heart attack on October 31, 2019 at his home in Houston, Texas.

Sam Zarilla was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania on April 17, 1933.  He was the second son of Peter and Wanda Colchiski Zarilla.  He graduated from New Castle High School on May 29, 1950.  That same year he joined the United States Air Force and was assigned to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.  He served three years with distinction in the Korean War as a tail gunner on a B29 Superfortress and was honorably discharged as Airman First Class on September 15, 1953.  Following his military service, Sam earned his Bachelor of Engineering - Industrial degree from Youngstown State University on May 29, 1962, and was a State Board Certified Professional Engineer.

A natural mathematician, Sam was a well-respected mechanical and structural engineer who primarily designed large scaffolding and cranes for companies such as Boeing and US Steel Mills; and his expertise in governmental contracting allowed him to design cranes to support the NASA rockets in Cape Canaveral during the 1960’s and dry-dock military ships in San Diego.

The achievement Sam was most proud of was his marriage of 65 years to Sara Gregor Zarilla.  They were married on September 11, 1954 in Mercer, PA.  At various times in their life they called New Castle, PA, Hollywood, FL or Alliance, OH home, but in 1987 they ultimately made Houston, Texas their final home.

Sam enjoyed building things, all of his homes had a woodshop; and eventually all of his homes had “additions”, or sheds, his son’s property had a barn, and the Florida home had a pool that he just had to build.

Sam was a storyteller, long, detailed stories, frequently repeated several times.  And he loved taking home movies.  Once VHS camcorders came out he produced endless hours of narrated family movies covering all events.  In the beginning, his children were the focus of his movies.  Once the grandchildren came along it was a whole new adventure.

He was fascinated with computers.  He learned programing of computers when one drive would fill the basement of a business office.  He was impressed when they reduced them to the size of a refrigerator.  When PC’s hit the market he found a need to have several of them, one for each room.

He enjoyed watching sports, and was an avid baseball fan, especially for the Texas Rangers, but was also partial to the Houston Astros.  And, Sam always enjoyed his cars.  He had many tales to tell of events with his Austin-Healey Sprite and Mustang, and he could tell you how many miles per gallon every one of his cars got and how much he spent on gas with every fill-up.  No one was ever allowed to throw away gas receipts.  He loved to keep records.

He entered Boy Scouting with his sons in 1967 and continued through 1978 during which time he served as Scoutmaster and Committee member.  He was awarded the Wood Badge (1972) and Scouter Key for his excellence in leadership and adult training.

He joined the Elks (Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks) in 1967 and maintained a lifelong membership.  He was dedicated to his Catholic religion and a longtime parishioner of the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Northwest Houston.

Sam is survived by his wife, Sara (Gregor) Zarilla of Houston, Texas; his brother, Paul A. Zarilla, of New Castle, PA, his daughters, Susan Zarilla Jacobson of Houston, Texas, and Sandy Zarilla Poole and son-in-law, Steve Poole of Magnolia, Texas; and his son, Samuel Zarilla, Jr of Houston, Texas; his grandsons, Nathan “Jack” and Jonathan Jacobson of Houston, Texas and Zachary Zarilla, of Virginia; granddaughters, Christie Zarilla of Florida and Mary Morgan of Texas, three great grandchildren, extended family members Nathan and Daniel Poole, Shelly Kroll, Katie Kroll Chancia, Mandy Kroll Elmer, and numerous nieces and nephews. Sam was preceded in death by his parents, Peter and Wanda Zarilla; and son, Steven Zarilla.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, November 30, 2019 at 2:00 pm at Cypress Fairbanks Funeral Home, 9926 Jones Road, Houston, TX 77065.  His military burial will be at Houston National Cemetery, 10410 Veterans Memorial Drive, Houston, Texas 77038.  All are welcome to attend and celebrate Sam’s life.

Sam had a life well-lived and will be deeply missed by all of those who loved him.


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