November 21, 1928 – April 4, 2020
With great sadness, we wish to announce the passing of Emil Zambo on April 4th, 2020. He passed away in his home surrounded by the love of his family and care-givers. Emil was 91 years old and is survived by his beautiful wife Lorry, his son Ray, his daughter Laura and her husband Mark Flores, his two grandchildren, Natalie Rae and Alisa Amy Flores.
Emil was born on November 21st, 1928 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to hard working Hungarian immigrant parents, William and Mary Zambo. William and Mary owned and operated a catering service specializing in traditional Hungarian dishes. William and Mary had two sons Gilbert, (Gil), now deceased and Emil. Gil was Emil’s older brother.
As a young boy, Emil enjoyed what many boys did back then, playing stick-ball in the streets with his friends, along with other street fueled activities. At a young age, Emil also served as an altar boy at the local Catholic Church. Emil also enjoyed woodworking such as building model sail boats or cars. His appreciation for machinery developed early, especially for the cars that rumbled down the streets of New Brunswick. Even though America was in the middle of the Great Depression, Detroit still produced some of the most elegant and iconic roadsters in US history.
After Emil graduated high school in 1947, his friends talked him into enlisting in the US Marine Corps. Emil did enlist and served three years, (that was full service back then) as a corporal. Since the statute of limitations has expired, it is now safe to disclose that Emil shared stories how he and his Marine Corps buddies would sneak food out of the kitchen at night. Emil was honorably discharged and set off to make a way for himself.
Sometime in Emil’s early life, given that he knew how to speak a little Hungarian, Emil helped the Hungarian immigrants with their arrival at Ellis Island acting as a translator. As a young man, Emil took flying lessons and learned to fly a single-engine plane made by Aeronca, (probably the Aeronca Chief) a two seater, fixed landing gear craft. Emil would tell stories of how spectacular it was to fly above Manhattan, look down at the city while dodging the sky scrapers and how impossible it would be to do that today. He would speak of how fortunate he was to be a young man at that time in our country’s history. He attended school and learned to be a draftsman. This was a good fit for him given his eye for detail and steady hands required for the meticulous nature of being a draftsman.
In 1956, Emil developed a minor health concern, minor when compared to other possible physical maladies, however this minor health problem turned out to be a life-changing event. Emil developed a painful and prominent pustule on his posterior, (a boil on his butt) and sought treatment at Roosevelt Hospital located in Metuchen New Jersey, a small township between Woodbridge and Edison. This is where he met his wife to be, Dolores (aka Lorry, don’t call her Dolores!) Novak, a dedicated medical professional – a nurse. The exact details of the lancing, care and “post op” of Emil’s back-side are lost to history, but this much is known – Emil remained at Roosevelt Hospital for two weeks! While in “recovery,” Emil’s friends somehow snuck beer in at night and made the best of Emil’s torturous rehabilitation period. Rumor has it that the phrase “Lorry, get me a beer” may have been first uttered in 1956 from a hospital bed in Metuchen N.J.
About a year later, Emil and Lorry were married on May 11th, 1957 and honeymooned at Niagara Falls. Emil worked as a draftsman for Koppers Couplings, now owned by Kop-Flex and is still a leader in precision couplings, and Lorry remained working as a nurse. Their first child, a girl, was born on February 22nd, 1958 in Perth Amboy N.J. One of Emil’s favorite movies and song of the same name was the 1944 Hollywood Classic movie, Laura, starring the green-eyed beauty, Gene Tierney as Laura Hunt. And that is the name of their first child – Laura.
In 1960, Emil, Lorry and their baby girl said good bye to the cold winters of New Jersey, piled in with what they could fit in a Volkswagen Beetle and drove cross-country to sunny Santa Monica California to begin a new life. Emil got a job selling cars by day and worked nights as a janitor. Lorry also worked the night shift – they hardly saw each other. It was a tough short-lived endeavor, and for many reasons after a year they moved back to New Jersey. But it wasn’t a total bust, they became lasting friends with a great couple, George and Audrey who lived in the same apartment building in Santa Monica.
Undeterred, the family reestablished their roots back home, renting a home at first with plans to buy as soon as possible. This is when Emil and Lorry developed their taste for early American furnishings along with their appreciation for nautical furnishings. Emil continued working as a draftsman and Lorry as a nurse as much as possible given that she was soon pregnant. On January 4th, 1962, Raymond (Ray) their second child was born, also in Perth Amboy.
Their first home purchase was in North Plainfield N.J. They lived there for about five years and in 1967 the Zambo family sold the Plainfield house and purchased their second home in Fanwood N.J. This was the place and time where many of the early family memories were made. Emil continued to work as a draftsman during the day, and Lorry worked at Lyons V.A. Hospital 3PM to midnight. Since mom wasn’t there to cook, the family enjoyed Emil’s culinary specialty – TV dinners. There were many wonderful memories like summer movies in the park, Laura’s first baby-sitting job, Ray’s position on the sports field, and road trips in the family car to Cape Cod just for the fried clams alone. There were holiday family gatherings along with cold snowy winters. Yes, cold snowy winters.
The thought of living on the West Coast was never off the radar, Emil’s desire to live in sunny California was always present. And in 1974, the Zambo family sold the house in Fanwood, and moved to Pacific Beach, California - San Diego to be precise. Pacific Beach is a district of S.D. They rented an apartment unit within walking distance of Mission Bay, which meant lots of saltwater fun and sand at their disposal. Emil quickly landed a job with one of San Diego’s prominent companies, NASSCO, now owned by General Dynamics, as a draftsman and Lorry continued to work as a nurse in La Jolla and other hospitals.
In 1975, the Zambo family purchased their ‘forever’ home on a hill overlooking Mission Bay. Gone were the cold snowy winters, replaced with year-round sunny days and a house with a clear view of the summer night’s fireworks display of Sea World. Emil was always working on the house finding ways to improve the overall appearance of the exterior and interior of the house, employing his standard of perfection to each cedar shingle that he nailed up, or sanding away the ugly orange-peel wall texture off the walls in order to make them smooth and blemish free, or carefully choosing just the right color to complete the classic East-Coast feel of the nick-knacks and trim of the inside of their home. He carefully hung authentic oars and lances from a whaling boat on the walls in perfect balance and in just the right place. The pewter kitchen ware on the shelves needed to be balanced and presented with authenticity.
Emil became business partners with his next door neighbor and good friend Roy, also a pilot. Together they purchased and maintained small planes – four in total. Emil and Roy leased out their mighty fleet of small craft mostly to Navy pilots. Why? What do Navy pilots like to do on their days off? Fly! It was a good business to be in in a Navy town.
Because of Emil’s careful planning, Emil retired early with the means to procure a few well deserved toys along the way. Along with the planes, Emil enjoyed driving his Fly-Yellow Porsche. There was a short lived romance with a 27-foot sail boat named ”Loriot,” which served as a fun sleep-over destination and family party spot. The family continued to enjoy the good life in San Diego, entertaining friends on their back patio overlooking the bay.
Ray continued on as an athlete and following in his father’s footsteps, Ray learned to fly and flew solo when he was sixteen. Shortly after, the family’s structure and future took a tragic turn when Ray was involved in a bad motorcycle accident and as a result, Ray sustained a neck injury and lost the use of his arms, hands and legs. There were many adjustments for the entire family, physically, mentally and emotionally. Emil’s resourceful mind and mechanical skills shifted into full take-charge mode to make sure that his son’s physical needs were attended to - Things like building ramps in the house for the wheelchair where necessary or modifying furniture like Ray’s bed.
The story of Ray’s post-accident life, Ray’s steadfastness and resolve is worthy of its own memoire, and this writer will share more on that in another document, but for the purposes of celebrating Emil Zambo, please allow me to continue with the celebration story.
In early 1992, Emil’s daughter brought someone home for the family to meet - A short stature, long-hair musician. Emil maintained his composure and took the introduction graciously. You see, the Zambo males come in above 6-feet, this odd little guy didn’t even break 5’5”. And a musician? Not a tradesman or a professional? Whew! Well, this little man was me, Mark Flores, the one that married into the family. This is a very noteworthy part of the life of Emil Zambo, because I need to express that I could not ask for better in-laws. Emil was always supportive of our marriage and endeavors, beginning with our wedding in 1993 in Malibu CA, to the big relocation of the Flores family from Los Angeles to San Diego, helping us with a second home purchase in San Diego. The Flores family owes a debt of countless gratitude for Emil’s generosity. Things like dinner outings to wonderful family cruises to Mexico – Memories to last a lifetime. When the granddaughters were born, the Zambos showered the girls with lots and lots of grandmotherly and grandfatherly love. The family photos of Christmas’ in the Zambo living room attest to those magical family moments.
Even as Emil approached his later years, as his strength and hearing began to fail, his outlook of his blessed life in living sunny San Diego never faltered. For example, as weather would allow during the fall and winter, wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, sitting by the gas fire-pit in the back overlooking the bay with a glass of champagne in his hand, he would often blurt out: . . . . “Just think, if we were back in New Jersey, we’d be shoveling snow!” . . “You can have it!” Another amazing attribute that I didn’t mention earlier was Emil’s love of big-band era music. That was the sound that he grew up with, that was the sound that he and Lorry fell in love to and to prove it, Emil could tell you not just the name of the song that was being played over the stereo, but he could tell you the name of the band along with the band leader’s name and if there were lyrics to be sung, he would sing them! Emil had an amazing memory.
We all have our personality quirks and Emil was not a saint, but Emil believed in common sense, hard work, doing the right thing, making sure that his family was safe and well cared for.
We miss you now and will miss you in ways that will become manifested as the years progress.
With love, Your family, your legacy.
Semper Fidelis Emil Zambo!
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
April 26, 2020
The Zambo family brought New England to San Diego! My teen and young adult life was so enriched by hanging out with Ray and his family. His Dad loved teasing my sister, Lizzie and I, with his New Jersey accent, "Get ouuttta my Garage!" and "What do you guuuys want?
Emil was most likely the kindest, most playful, and generous adult I have known. Emil, Lorrie and Ray loved sharing the things they loved with others! They felt joy at seeing Lizzie and I experience out first, lobster in their back yard, dipping the meat in the melted butter, giggling as the breeze flapped at our plastic bibs, our first Prime Rib at the 97 Aero squadron restaurant, family style served beans, rice and lobster in Puerto Nuevo, shrimp cocktail at the Golden Nugget casino in Old Vegas. More memories... Stuffed grape leaves, Hungarian Paprika, bowls of peanut m&m's as we played card games.
Ray and Emil invited us on their Erickson sailboat for the day, first stop was the little grocery store on Moraga, to get food for a picnic . Emil zipped around the produce department bagging grapes, strawberries, and he grabbed some tomatoes. I asked him how we could eat tomatoes without at knife on the boat, and he threw back his head, with a big smile and laughter and said "You bite it like an apple!"
My first ride in a Porche to Rancho Santa Fe, my first Hangar party and a flight above San Diego in a small airplane, even happy hour/ fashion shows at the Catamaran where we bid on dresses! Time spent with Emil and his family was always a happy time!
Later in life, I confided to Emil that I was "Stuck" and Emil gave me the sound advice, with serious declaration, he shook his head in disagreement, and told me "No, you are never stuck, don't ever think you are stuck there is always another way." Thank you, Emil for blessing my life with your presence. Rest in Peace big guy.
Condolences to Lorrie, Ray, Laura, and Mark, you have lost a wonderful man.
Roy & Ann Bredfield
April 25, 2020
I think the three things that Emil loved the most besides his family, were airplanes, fast cars and food. The latter with a cold bottle of champagne. He was a good friend for more than forty years. We flew together on trips to Sunriver, Oshkosh, Laughlin, Scottsdale and our trip back from Wichita Kansas when we bought our first Cessna. Ann and I felt like we were part of the Zambo family, we shared many wonderful dinners at home and at our favorite restaurants.
I'll always remember our happy hour days at Diego's, (dollar margaritas and 75 cent tacos) and the Acapulco, Monday night football and of course margaritas and tacos. What started out to be just Moe and me, grew over the years to include Bob Lindsay, Bill James, Richard Adams Jim Dunn and the late Norm Hendrickson. Lots of memories. Emil was a very big part of our lives, he was our neighbor, my partner and most of all, my friend. He will always be remembered.
April 21, 2020
The first time I met Emil, I was immediately drawn to his warm and friendly smile. We both shared a love of flying and I loved talking about airplanes with him.
I have known Ray Zambo for over 20 years and realize the greatness of your Father, I can see he will truly be missed by all his Family and Friends. Ray I will always remember the fun you both must have had riding in your Dads white Convertible up to Cordianos.
I am very honored to have had the privilege of meeting Emil, his son Ray and Emil's family. He will be truly missed.
April 21, 2020
I always felt uplifted when meeting Emil--he was that sort of a guy--really glad to see you.
Our best time together was in the 1990s when we flew across the country and back in a Mooney airplane that he and his neighbor Roy bought together. Being an ex-military pilot , I had flown x-c many times, but it had been at high altitude and with few interesting stops. With Emil, however, it was more memorable--flying at low altitude and stopping at the most interesting places we could find for meals and lodging.
Arriving in his home state of NJ, we stayed in Lori's sister's home and took them sight-seeing over the Statue of Liberty, around Long Island and down the Hudson River.
During that x-c trip we visited small towns, National museums, and airplane factories. We ate delicious food and flew low around many scenic landmarks.
It was an experience I will never forget with a wonderful guy.
Christine and John Weidner
April 21, 2020
Emil was one of the really good guys in the world. There don't seem to be all that many of them, you know? So, when you meet one, you know you're really lucky. I can tell you this: He and Lorry created and built the most fabulous, talented, kind, and generous family. And that tells you something about the essence of a person. We've been lucky enough to have the Zambos as friends and neighbors and have been able to share with them joy and laughter and the deepest pleasures of beauty and song and dogs (always dogs) together. These things never go away. Thank you, Emil, for your optimistic self, always seeing what was possible in every circumstance.
Kay Masaryk Smith
April 12, 2020
A wonderful man is in heaven now looking over his beautiful loving faithful family. Bless you all & much sympathy to my work buddy, Ray.
- Kay Masaryk-