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WWII veteran Joe Zadra, 99, is Memorial Day parade Marshall in West Bend, WI

May 30, 2022 – West Bend, WI – There is no Memorial Day Parade anywhere else in the U.S. that will be able to tout a Grand Marshall who is a World War II veteran who is about to turn 100 years old in July and just celebrated his 75th wedding anniversary with his wife, Edne, who five months his senior.
Keep an eye out for Joe and Edna Zadra during today’s Memorial Day Parade which steps off at 9:30 a.m. from the corner of Oak Street and Main Street.

The Zadra’s just commemorated their 75th anniversary by reenacting their wedding. The couple eloped in 1947 and were married on the Capitol steps in Madison.

Zadra
The Zadra’s son Nolan has been helping organize the event. “We are going to recreate their vows in front of a judge on the Capitol steps in Madison,” he said. “Their actually anniversary was Tuesday, May 24 but this worked out schedule wise. After that they will go across the street to The Park Hotel for lunch.”
parade
15 minutes before Justice of the Peace performed wedding in Madison, WI | Photo credit: Nolan Zadra

Nolan said, aside from the couple’s longevity, their story is far from a fairytale, but it is full of moxie and paints a perfect picture of the late 1940s era which included Joe coming home from WWII, his high school sweetheart waiting for him and then Edna threw down.

“When Joe came back after the war Edna moved up from Chicago to Madison,” said Nolan. “But Joe said his focus was on education and not love.”

Well, Edna had a response for that. “She told him there were 23,000 GI’s on the campus and he better get going. We found this out at her 100th birthday,” said Nolan.

Joe Zadra

“Then she came in on a Saturday and said, ‘We’re getting married today.’  The couple eloped and got married by a judge,” Nolan said.

Spending time together in Chicago while Joe was on leave, circa 1943: photo credit: Nolan Zadra

Edna Zadra kept a scrapbook, and the kids found an itinerary from their wedding day including what they had for ‘dinner.’ Written in cursive with a red pen Edna detailed having their picture taken at 11:30 a.m. and dinner at 12 p.m. at Park Hotel. The menu started with Manhattans and shrimp cocktail, hors d’oeuvres, Southern fried chicken, potatoes and vegetables, coffee, wedding cake and ice cream and after dinner drinks.

“On our way… approximately 2 p.m.” was the script as the couple headed for their honeymoon at Cave of the Mounds.

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Lunch after the wedding ceremony at the Park Hotel, and Cave of the Mounds is the first stop on Joe and Edna’s honeymoon.; Photo credit: Nolan Zadra

The Zadra family is asking The Park Hotel if it can recreate the menu from  May 24, 1947.

Joe Zadra, will soon be 100; he is one of the few remaining WWII vets in the West Bend/Washington County area.

Joe is quick to mention. “Edna is a little older than me, her birthday is in February.”

“He never lets me forget it,” said Edna.

Joe Zadra served in the U.S. Army from 1942-46 and fought in the Battle of the Bulge   He was an intelligence officer in the 19th Tank Battalion that was sent to join the 6th Armored Division. Zadra’s unit raced to safeguard the road to Bastogne, Belgium, on the southern flank of the battle.

Joe Zadra
Zadra survived the Battle of the Bulge but caught pneumonia and was taken to an aid station on Dec. 30, 1946. He recuperated in a hospital for a couple of weeks and returned to his unit. Joe Zadra, who grew up in Schofield, WI, spent decades working for the Gehl Co.

When the West Bend, Wisconsin Memorial Day parade steps off Monday, May 30, 2022, Joe Zadra will be the Grand Marshal, accompanied by his wife, Edna.

The parade will follow the same route as in previous years starting in front of Badger Middle School, 727 S. Sixth Avenue, going north on Main Street, left on Hickory to Sixth Avenue, left on 6th Avenue to Chestnut, and end at the Washington County Historical Courthouse, 320 S. Fifth Avenue.

The Memorial Service will begin immediately after the parade, outside of the old Washington County Courthouse at Veterans Memorial Plaza on Fifth Avenue.

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