Tamara Sue Zahn

June 22, 1953October 1, 2020

Indianapolis has lost an inspirational leader. Many of us have lost a joyful friend.

Tamara Zahn died on Thursday, Oct 1 at the age of 67. She leaves behind her beloved husband of 28 years, Tim Wade; son, Tim Wade, Jr. and brother, Tom Zahn.

Tamara led Indianapolis Downtown Inc. (now Downtown Indy, Inc.), from its founding in 1993 until she stepped down in 2012. Over those decades, her vision and enthusiasm were instrumental to the transformation of Indianapolis into a cultural hub and convention destination.

Tamara grew up in Fort Wayne, the daughter of Phyllis and Bob Zahn. She attended the University of Montana for her first two years. During a mid-college break, she worked for the Indiana State Senate as Reading Clerk. It was there that she crossed paths with a young legal intern, who later would become her lifelong partner, the man she loved to call T-Wade.

She earned her BA from Indiana University, and launched her career in real estate. Over the years, she consulted with businesses including Howard Hughes’ empire in Las Vegas, PPG Place in Pittsburgh, and the Rouse Company in Baltimore. She played a key role with the Simon Property Group as it developed the Mall of America (Minneapolis) and Circle Centre Mall.

During her years at IDI, Tamara parlayed her real estate experience and marketing insights to help Indianapolis expand its ability to host major conventions and events such as the NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl. She launched the Cultural District program, the Marge Tarplee Downtown Beautification Fund, and chaired the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. She facilitated the United Way’s Executive Women’s Leadership class in 2012, and in 2013, she was elected chair of the International Downtown Association. After her “retirement,” she worked as a volunteer through the Executive Volunteer Services Program, and provided strategic advice to non-profit groups including People for Urban Progress, Pattern Magazine and Marquette.

In 1988, she was part of a group of neighbors that founded Friends of Holliday Park. During her years on the board, volunteers raised private funds to build its remarkable playground and Nature Center and renovate the trails, as well as to establish a permanent endowment funding park maintenance.

Tamara’s list of awards and honors is long and impressive: IBJ Inaugural Class of 40 Under 40 (1993); Olympic torch bearer (1996); IBJ’s Inaugural class of Most Influential Women (1997); IUPUI Notable Woman (2000); Sagamore of the Wabash (2004); NUVO Cultural Vision (2012); Downtown Champion (2014) and many more.

Tamara’s impact was just as powerful at the individual level. She loved to mentor young women and men, advising them on everything from communication to strategic planning. Her life-planning “vision boards” were something to behold. Armed with her easel and multi-colored markers, she would ask probing questions, eliciting responses that could spark a new career direction or life chapter.

Wherever Tamara went, she brought along a contagious sense of whimsy, optimism and flair. For the opening of Circle Centre, she sparkled in a sheath she had handmade by an artist, from the blueprints of the mall (a dress she could fit into 25 years later). She was famous for her personal touches, rarely forgetting a friend’s milestone. A hand-written thank-you note presented an opportunity to share a photograph. She was known to celebrate her birthday month, since one day was simply not enough. In recent years, she and Tim delighted in the serendipity of heading to Florida in December, with just one-way plane tickets.

And boy, did she know how to make an entrance: smiling, almost 6’ tall, usually in a starched shirt with the collar popped, preferably in “Tiffany blue.”

Indy Downtown, Inc. will honor Tamara’s life and contributions in a ceremony on Friday, October 9 at 11:00 a.m. on Monument Circle. The family asks that guests please respect health protocols, with masks and courtesy distancing. Popped collars and turquoise ties (or masks) are encouraged.

Memorial gifts may be made to Friends of Holliday Park ( ), the Indianapolis Public Library ( ) , or Indy Downtown, Inc, designating the Tamara Zahn Downtown Impact Fund ( ).


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Tamara Sue Zahn

have a memory or condolence to add?

Natasha Garcia

October 17, 2020

How to begin...Tamara’s zest for life and color, her collection of greeting cards ready for any occasion. The way she really listened and helped you see who you are and could be. Her love of birthdays and fabulous accessories. Her pure intention in everything she did. I am grateful to have had Tamara (and Tim) in my life. They have shaped me in ways they may never realize. My admiration and love continues today and always. My sincerest condolences.

Daniel Seitz

October 12, 2020

Indelibly printed in my memory is my first exposure to this amazing individual who harbored a giant intellect behind a rapier wit. She was serving as the reader in the Senate, the individual who “introduces” a proposed bill by “reading” the summary of the bill. The reading is rapid and rarely concluded before gaveled to silence by the Pro Tem. To most, it is background noise. Much to the shock of the Senate and those in the lobby, she decided to test the attention level by inserting in the middle of her rapid fire read the famous MacDonalds description of the Big Mac. You know the one — “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun.” Needless to say, it took a moment for it to sink in, but when it did it perfectly introduced Tamara to the larger world.

Linda Curtis

October 11, 2020

Tami was a lifelong friend and such a beautiful person. She will be missed but her legacy will live on. With sincere sympathy to the family.


Tom McNulty

October 11, 2020

Hi Tim---Been thinking about you and yours during these sad times. As everyone knows, she was one of a kind and we were all lucky to know her. I sure will miss her "TM" reply on the Monon when I shouted out "TZ" as we passed so often over recent years. Peace, and God bless her sweet soul! Tom

Robert Bennington

October 10, 2020

I’m so sorry for your loss.

Liz & Mike Keele

October 9, 2020

Her name and style were iconic. We had the pleasure of some delightful visits when our paths crossed a few times socially. Our community swelled with creativity and qualitative change with her dedication and vision. Our condolences to her loved ones and to the city for the loss of such a brilliant soul!

Steve Wolkoff

October 8, 2020

Like so many people, Tamara inspired me to consider forming my own business on many occasions .

It made a serious impact on me coming from such an impressive person . I am so grateful for her support.

She and my friend Tim were a terrific loving couple .

Their collective accomplishments for our city were awesome.

Bob Desautels

October 8, 2020

Tamara provided our city with talent and zest to share our city’s downtown in a way that encouraged people to visit and enjoy the assets it has. I will always remember her joyous personality and huge energy. We’re fortunate that she spent decades making our city so much better.

Dennis Parker

October 6, 2020

I am saddened by hearing the passing of a wonderful, beautiful woman,who was also my friend in high school. It saddens me that I never kept in touch with Tami throughout the years, but her mother and father when I would see them would always let me know what she was upto. She was a great woman who I was very proud to call my friend.

Daniel Gebhart

October 6, 2020

Tami was an amazing woman and a great life-long friend. I actually know little of her professional life, but but feel I can attest to the attributes that made her a great human being; caring, optimistic, striving, dedication and excellence. Since she left Fort Wayne, we haven't been in close contact, but I could expect to hear from her at the Holidays and often on birthdays. She will be missed. I will miss her.
Dan Gebhart


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