Ira M. Zeasman
Mar 6, 1921 – Aug 25, 2015
Charles Lindberg’s flight over the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris in 1927 had a huge influence on Ira Milton Zeasman who was born 6 years earlier on March 6, 1921, in Madison, Wisconsin, to Gladys and Otto Zeasman.
As a very young boy, Ira was captivated by flight, and this fascination continued throughout his 94 years. His first ride in an airplane at age 11, and without his mother’s permission, was in a “Robin” that took off from frozen Lake Mendota (a reward for guarding the plane while the pilot had lunch). He attended West High in Madison, Wisconsin, where he met Jean Niebuhr in band class and their friendship blossomed as they shared a music stand. “Zeas” entered the University of Wisconsin where he majored in mechanical engineering and at the same time earned his pilot license through the Civilian Pilot Training Program. A favorite family story is that Zeas would fly his Waco biplane over Jean’s family farm doing aerobatic maneuvers to gain her attention.
The Boeing Company hired Ira as a design engineer in February 1942. Jean and Ira were married in Madison four months later and quickly thereafter took up residence in Seattle. Ira began a 40-year career with the Boeing Company where his management assignments included projects within the Wind Tunnels where his special interest was in the development of the swept wing XB-47. Over the years follow-on assignments included, Minuteman Missile, Dyna-Soar, Aerospace Group’s New Business Area Investigations, Boeing Computer Services and the Flight Technology Laboratories. He loved his company, his work and his associates.
Ira built models of airplanes and dirigibles as a boy, and during the period 1945 to 1947 and influenced by his membership in the Boeing “Enginairs” U Control Club, he and a partner formed ZandL Model Products, a local company producing hand-built balsa wood airplane model kits that were shipped to customers throughout the United States.
In 1949 the Zeasmans broke ground on their dream house designed and built by them while raising four children, Kathi Hale (Edward), Steve (DeVonne), Barb Clingan (Wes) and Lori Zeasman. All aspects of the house, from clearing the land to mixing the concrete and laying the bricks was accomplished by the pair. The large yard with barbeque pit for hot dog roasts and play areas for basketball and trampoline was designed for the children’s and neighborhood enjoyment.
Never one to sit still, Ira became interested in boating and built by hand their first small cruiser. A succession of boats lead to their final pride and joy, “Zeas,” that provided so many memories and fun-filled hours of cruising with friends and family in the San Juan Islands and Desolation Sound as well as participating in Queen City Yacht Club activities. Retired in March 1982, Ira and Jean enjoyed many trips aboard cruise ships visiting countless harbors around the world, as well as vacation stops in Hawaii and Palm Springs -- always traveling on Boeing jets.
During the last few years Zeas enjoyed lunches with Boeing retiree friends and time spent assembling family genealogy. He was a member of the Boeing Museum of Flight, Queen City Yacht Club and B-47 Stratojet Association. Ira and Jean were married 70 years and she preceded him in death in 2013. Ira is survived by his four children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren who will enjoy recalling all the laughter and family fun when together at home or on camping, boating or airplane trips.
“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
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