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1928 Marko "Mark" 2023

Marko "Mark" Zelich

September 3, 1928 — October 12, 2023

Wausau

Marko "Mark" Zelich, died at age 95 peacefully on Thursday October 12, 2023.

He was born September 3, 1928 in South Milwaukee, WI to the late Savan and Ida Zelich. His mother died when Mark was 7, leaving him and his two younger brothers to be raised by his father. His sons had the deepest love and respect for their father, an immigrant from Yugoslavia; who saw all of them graduate high school and serve in the military while he became a naturalized citizen. Both brothers George and Emil preceded Mark in death.

He is survived by his treasured wife and love of 64 years, former Nancy Clarellen O'Leary whom he married in 1959 in Wausau, his four beloved children, sons: Steven (Mary), Christopher (Julie), Mark (Diane) and daughter Kerri (Matt) Hall. Five revered grandchildren, Maxwell (Brianna) Zelich, Meghan (Adam) Massie, Paige, Taylor and Jordyn Zelich, Great Grandchildren Chance, Everli, Marko, August Zelich, and Eleanor Massie with another great grandchild arriving in December.

Though proud of being designated a WWII veteran he wanted it known that he enlisted post high school after the war had ended. He did not consider himself among those remarkably heroic Americans who sacrificed their lives or suffered life-altering wounds during that incredible conflict. He often said "they died so I didn't have to".

Mark entered broadcasting following his Army service. His radio/television career spanned 56 years with the last 50 in Wausau. He started in radio in 1951 in Escanaba, MI and then to Ashland, WI where Congressman Alvin O'Konski hired him for his Merrill/Wausau radio stations. In 1957 he joined Channel 7 WSAU television and radio as Sports Director. On air he was paired with news anchor Walter John Chilsen and weatherman Howard Gernetzke. All three would be enshrined in the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.

Those early years in radio gave him the chance to develop his play-by-play style and skills while doing hundreds of area high school football and basketball games. This was followed by 12 years as the voice of UW Badger football on the WI Broadcast network. In March of 1971 and for 17 years thereafter, he journeyed to Des Moines, Iowa to be the television face and voice of the Iowa Boys High School state basketball championships. In 2015, he was inducted into the Wausau East inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame, recognizing his over 500 play-by-play football and basketball broadcasts.

The World Snowmobile Association inducted him into its Snowmobile Hall of Fame for his 25th year in television coverage of the World Snowmobile Championships in Eagle River, WI. A Final distinction came in 2017 when the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Art and Sciences recognized his career, honoring him with their esteemed Silver Circle.

Being both News & Sports Director gave him the opportunity to surround himself with young, eager, and dedicated broadcasting journalists of whom were not only co-workers, but became friends. Watching "Zs Kids" grow in the craft and move on to successful careers at TV and radio stations throughout the country gave him immense satisfaction.  He was deeply moved when station management dedicated the WSAW newsroom in his honor and later, as the Wausau Fox television station WZAW was named after him. 

Eager to be more than just an image on the television screen or voice on radio, he initiated and perpetuated six franchises: the Channel 7 Men and Women's golf classics, the Channel 7 Women and Men's Pinbusters (which gained him entry to the Wausau Bowling Assoc. Hall of Fame) and the Channel 7 High School boys and girls basketball and football All Stars.  He was a toastmaster and speaker at well over a hundred Ducks Unlimited, Whitetails Unlimited, and high school sports banquets. He and Nancy hosted approximately 20 air, rail, cruise and motor coach trips for channel 7 with over 400 area travelers tagging along on trips throughout the US and Canada. When he wasn't busy with work, Mark enjoyed golf as a 60+ year member at the Wausau Country Club. Lastly, Marko was a Mason and Shriner for over sixty years. 

A private family service was held at Brainard Funeral Home Wausau, WI followed by burial at Pine Grove Cemetery. In lieu of flowers the family asks any memorials be made to Shriners Children's Twin Cities, 215 Radio Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125 or the Raiden Science Foundation: https://www.raidenscience.org/  in support of Marko's two great grandsons, Marko and August Zelich, who are afflicted with the rare gene mutation UBA5.

Special and grateful thanks to the tireless, caring staff at Primrose Memory Care, North Central Health Care and Aspirus Hospice Care.
"And that sport is sports"... "Courage"

Condolences may be directed to www.brainardfuneral.com

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