Richard Henry Zellner passed from this life on September 11, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, leaving behind his adoring and heartbroken family. He was the very best husband, father, son, grandfather, brother and son-in-law anyone could ask for.
Richard was born on December 14, 1951 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma to Max and Mary Ward Zellner. He grew up in Hulbert, Oklahoma and held many fond memories of spending summers as a young boy swimming in Fourteen Mile Creek.
He graduated from Hulbert High School in 1970 and went on to earn both Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from Northeastern State University. He was a lifelong learner who loved history. He began his teaching career at Tahlequah Junior High School in the fall of 1974 and retired in the spring of 2003 after twenty-nine years of teaching history. He taught thousands of ninth graders, many of whom remember the interesting side stories of history that he so loved to tell. He also taught Freshman History as an adjunct instructor at NSU for many years.
In the summer of 1978 he married Valerie Ketcher, a fellow junior high teacher. For 25 years they rode to school together, taught next door to each other and rode home together. They never tired of spending time together. Richard became the father of three wonderful children, Lesley, Amanda, and Brandon. He was always so proud of them and so proud to be their father. He also loved and was proud of his son-in-law Chris, daughter-in-law Allison, and bonus granddaughter Gracie.
During his teaching career, he spent many years as the Social Studies Department Chair. He served as President of the Tahlequah Education Association in the 1970s. He was chosen twice as the TJHS Teacher of the Year, received the Stuart Indian Territory Award for Excellence in Teaching Oklahoma History from the Oklahoma Heritage Association in 2000, was chosen by the NSU Student Government Association as Faculty Member of the Year in 2014, and was included in NSU's Top Ten RiverHawk Recognition Awards in 2016. During retirement, he served as Vice President, and then President of the Cherokee County Retired Educators Association and was often a delegate to the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association Convention. He served a number of years on the Tahlequah Historic Preservation Board.
Richard was a quiet and gentle soul and a devoted family man. He enjoyed family get-togethers, golf, reading, woodworking and antique hunting with his wife. But he especially enjoyed spending time with and entertaining his grandchildren who affectionately called him "Gran". He was a master of making up stories for them, and the first question they often asked when arriving was, "Where's Gran?". Picking up Carter and Claire from school was a joy for him.
Richard was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Mary Kaye. He is survived by his wife Valerie; his daughter and son-in-law Lesley and Chris Presley of Tahlequah; his daughter Amanda of Rogers, Arkansas; his son and daughter-in-law Brandon and Allison of Washington, D.C.; grandchildren Gracie, Carter and Claire Presley of Tahlequah; mother-in-law Nadine Ketcher of Tahlequah; cousin Norma Cannon Merriman of Raleigh, North Carolina; sister-in law and brother-in-law Suzanne and Russ Miller of Nixa, Missouri; sister-in-law and brother-in-law Melissa and James Parnell of Ft. Gibson, Oklahoma; and sister-in-law Natalie Batt of Tahlequah; as well as nieces, nephews and innumerable other friends, relatives and colleagues. Richard will be missed beyond measure by all those who had the good fortune to know him.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to The Thompson House at PO Box 232, Tahlequah, Oklahoma 74465.
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