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February 26, 2024

Joseph Anthony Zanger Sr.

Friends are invited to a memorial service and a Mass Of The Resurrection which will be held on Friday, February 20th beginning at 10:00 A.M. at Saint Benedict Catholic Church 1200 Fairview Road, Hollister in honor of Joseph Anthony Zanger, a prominent long time resident of San Benito and Santa Clara counties.

Joseph was born on December 28, 1927 in San Jose, California. Making dreams a reality was his way of life. Joseph inherited his ingenuity and strong work ethic from his parents and his Italian and German ancestors.

Joseph was a descendent of the Bisceglia-Cribari families, who immigrated to America from Calabria, Italy in the late 1800’s. Joseph’s ancestors initially eked out a living by canning tomatoes and felling giant oaks to produce charcoal. Later on, this industrious family built the largest cannery and winery in the Santa Clara Valley, shipping products throughout the world. In 1906, the Bisceglia brothers purchased land along the Pacheco Pass and shortly thereafter planted the first prunes, cherries, and apricot orchards. This was the property that Joseph and his brothers farmed and developed in later years.

Joseph Zanger was the third child of Dr. Henry G. Zanger and Clara Bisceglia Cribari. He and his siblings grew up in a stately Victorian home on South First Street in San Jose. Due to Joseph’s ingenuity, this Victorian, which had once been the home of James Lick, was relocated to Santa Clara where it has been preserved as a historical home. The property on South First Street is now the site of the Sacred Heart Community Center.

Joseph attended St. Mary’s Elementary School in San Jose, Bellarmine College Preparatory, and Santa Clara University, where he majored in economics. As a child, Joseph spent summers with his cousins on their ranch near the 156/152 “Y” on the Pacheco Pass Highway.

Joseph was introduced to cattle ranching as a teenager on his father’s ranch on Mount Hamilton. Ranch work appealed to Joseph who fell in love with his horse, “Duchess” and the cowboy ways. Until 2003, Joseph maintained a small cattle herd, doing the gathering, roping, branding, and vaccinating of the cattle himself.

Joseph’s passion for horses led him to serve as a Director of the Santa Clara County Horseman’s Association at the age of 17. He also was a co-founder of the California Reined Stock Horse Association. From 1945-1947, Joseph showed his horses in the California Salinas Rodeo and at other local rodeos. From 1945 – 2008, Joseph never missed attending the California Salinas Rodeo. He developed a talent for roping which lasted a life time, roping over 30,000 children for their delight at Casa de Fruta BBQ and Western Dance venue.

After attending college, Joseph moved to Pacheco Pass to help manage the family’s orchard operations. In 1953, he married Kathleen Kelsch from Mandan, North Dakota. They raised their four children, Wendy, Allene, Joe, and Gretchen on the ranch on Pacheco Pass.

For over 50 years, Joseph and his two brothers, George and Eugene, farmed over 600 acres of orchards and vineyards on Pacheco Pass. Joseph’s economics major enabled him to develop a business marketing strategy for the California Prune Bargaining Association, which he helped found at the age of 19. For ten years, Joseph represented San Benito and Santa Clara counties on the California/Federal Prune Administrative Committee and on the California Prune Advisory Committee. He also served as the Director of the Santa Clara Valley Winegrowers Association and President of the San Benito County Farm Bureau.

The Zanger family founded Casa de Fruta to complement their farming business. Casa de Fruta started with a small cherry stand erected in 1943 and grew in the following decades to include a large fruit stand, restaurant, RV park, lodge, wine tasting, gift shop, barnyard zoo, candy store, service station, and dried fruit mailing business. Joseph oversaw the construction of the buildings and landscaped Casa de Fruta with large rocks that he hauled from the Pacheco Pass tunnel. At Casa de Fruta, he assembled over 2,000 pieces of historical farm equipment, one of the largest collections in the United States.

Joseph was the president of the California State RV Park Association from 1980-1982. He also successfully championed legislation that permitted outdoor BBQs for businesses in California. Joseph constantly studied safety and economic issues related to the area’s transportation system. In 1978, he served on the planning committee for completion of Interstate 5 from Stockton to Santa Nella/Highway 152. In 2005, he worked to establish a new route for Highway 152/156 to connect with Highway 101 south of Gilroy. He was a lifelong Republican, serving as the San Benito County Republican Central Committee Chairman for eight years.

Joseph learned the trade of blacksmithing from the blacksmiths who worked for the Bisceglia brothers and from his father, who spent hours in his shop making surgical instruments. His wrought iron pieces ranged from massive chandeliers to elaborate gates.

He loved people and he loved to dance. He helped found the Hollister Dance Club in 1959. He was inducted into the California Southwestern Dance Hall of Fame in 1985 in recognition of the years in which Casa de Fruta served as a venue for world champion western dancers. He won a dance contest at the Hyatt in Monterey with 50 spins on the dance floor. He was a regular at the SaddleRack and Cowtown dance venues in San Jose. Joseph even spun his way into the hearts of the Panamanians when he visited his daughter while she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Left to cherish Joseph’s memory are his longtime partner, Roxy Montana, his children, Wendy Scherbart, Allene Zanger, Joe C. Zanger and Gretchen Blatter, his daughter-in-law Glenda Zanger, his sons-in-law, Jon Scherbart, Rob Williams, and Robert Blatter, his eight grandchildren Ryan, Tom and Krista Scherbart, Gerrod, Meggie and Elliot Zanger, and Elizabeth and Jamie Blatter, his sister Claire Marie Tearse, his brothers, Eugene A. Zanger and Dr. Louis Zanger, his 42 nieces and nephews, and Roxy’s six children. His brother, George Zanger and sister, Phyllis Fournier, predeceased him.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Sacred Heart Community Services (1381 South First St., San Jose, CA 95110); Saint Benedict Catholic Church in Hollister (P.O. Box 1040, Hollister, CA 95023); and the San Benito County Saddle Horse Association (P.O. Box 56, Hollister, CA 95024).

Grunnagle Ament Nelson Funeral Home 870 San Benito St., Hollister 95023 (831) 637-3757

Visit: www.grunnagle.com for condolences.

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