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Brother Abel Zanella

Posted: Friday, Jan 25th, 2013

Shortly after the 49rs took care of the Falcons and were making ready to dispose of the Ravens, when the carillon of the tower of the Valley Church was chiming “How Great Thou Art”, Brother Abel Zanella, Salesian of St. John Bosco, stopped living in Watsonville to begin his new life in God. He was nearly 98 years of age.

Brother Zanella arrived at the St. Francis orphanage around Christmas of the year 1946, thus spending the next 66 years of religious life here in Watsonville. In his 66 years of dedicated service to the St. Francis Community, Brother Zanella has labored in a colorful array of jobs, all for the benefit of his community: as a farmer of a variety of crops including vegetables and animal feed; as the orchard keeper to groves of apple trees; as a rancher of herds of cattle and pigs; as a butcher; as a cook; as a hunter of deer, rabbit, and pheasant; as a general handyman and maintenance specialist; as a welding instructor; as a motivating force and the most enduring face behind Friday night Bingo; as a leader of the recycling program on the new St. Francis campus; as a founder of the annual spring lamb barbeque of the American Cancer Society; as a third-degree Knight of Columbus; as a model of Christian charity and service to thousands of families of the Pajaro Valley; and most significantly, as a great friend and confrere to generations of Salesians brothers and priests.

Born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, Brother Zanella joined the Salesian Society in Italy at the age of 20. After completing his training in agriculture, he was appointed manager of the farm at the very place of Don Bosco’s birth, Colle Don Bosco. Under Brother Zanella’s management, over the course of eleven years the farm flourished and developed into a school. He “modestly” boasted of having planted 10,000 vines. In 1947 Brother Zanella returned to the U.S. and became manager of the farm at St. Francis High School in Watsonville, California. That task turned out to be the work of a lifetime. Even after the old St. Francis High School and the farm were phased out he stayed on, working as assistant treasurer and cook for the Salesian Community. Meanwhile the new St. Francis High School opened its doors, and new buildings came up. A few years ago the Piazza Zanella was dedicated in his honor at the St. Francis High School.

A scholarship for St. Francis High School in memory of Brother Abel Zanella is being organized through the parish office of the Valley Catholic Church, 2401 East Lake Avenue, Watsonville, CA 95076; (831) 722-2665.

Recitation of the Rosary, songs, reflections, memories, will take place at the Valley Church on Monday, January 28 beginning at 5:00 pm. The Mass of the Resurrection will take place on Tuesday, January 29, at the Valley Church; at 11:00 a.m. Internment will take place on Tuesday, January 29, at the Salesian Cemetery in Richmond, California. Mehl’s Colonial Chapel has been entrusted with funeral arrangements.

For the complete article see the 01-26-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 01-26-2013 paper.

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