At 82, Zsiga is an active volunteer, inspiration

ROCK HILL – Joseph “Ziggy” Zsiga has spent his life in quiet and dedicated service to his family, church, community and, for the last 50 years, the Knights of Columbus.

On March 1, 1956, the 82-year-old Zsiga became a Knight in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. In 1975, he moved to Rock Hill and became a member of St. Anne Church and a founding member of the Oratory Council of the Knights.

Zsiga is a constant and faithful volunteer at the church, school and the Oratory Center for Spirituality. His list of responsibilities might wear out a much younger man. Zsiga applies a youthful enthusiasm when he takes on volunteer tasks that others might find tedious. He will clean cobwebs from the church rafters while perched on a ladder, varnish and replace kickplates on the front doors. He is also known for his woodworking skills, and even portrayed St. Joseph, complete with tool belt and chainsaw, in the church production of “The All Saints’ Annual Picnic.”

Since 1992, Zsiga has held the 4 a.m. Friday slot at the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Anne and is a regular at the Tuesday evening rosary group. He runs the music soundboard every other Sunday and for countless funerals and special events. He is also an usher.

“Perseverance is a virtue and gift that benefits not only the one with it but also everyone that looks on,” said Oratorian Father William Pentis, retired pastor of St. Anne. “Values that are lived 50 years shine before a world always looking for quick fixes. Joe Zsiga lets his light shine as we all rejoice in his example of faithful living the KC ideals and giving us a good example to follow.”

Zsiga is in charge of the “Adopt-A-Mile” road cleanup for the Knights, helped organize the council’s blood drive as a 63 pints-and-counting donor, and has worked in their concession booth at the Panther football games since the inaugural game 10 years ago.

“Joe has received awards from the stadium for attendance,” said Richard Pfizenmayer, Knights district deputy. “I’m 20 years younger than he is and I miss games. He is a totally dedicated volunteer.”

Operation Hope, the Knights’ fund-raising campaign for the mentally handicapped, has always been a favorite activity, Zsiga said. When carpal tunnel syndrome prevented him from holding the collection can, he had one of his brother Knights craft a special device that he could strap to his arm with the can on the end. Zsiga has also been a member of the 4th Degree of the Knights for 43 years and is now a member of the Father Henry Tevlin Assembly Honor Guard participating in confirmations, funerals and other special events in full regalia. Though that may require wearing a tuxedo, which makes dressing difficult with his hand, he doesn’t let that stop him. He shows up early for a hand with his cuff links and bow tie, he said.

“Joe has never failed to respond when it comes time to volunteer,” said Larry Facelli, Oratory Council Grand Knight. “He appears to me to be a little shy; however, he is always one of the top collectors for Operation Hope … Joe probably has more volunteer hours helping raise those funds than any other Knight.”

As if that were not enough, Zsiga is also active in the community. He helped build six houses for Habitat for Humanity in Rock Hill and Fort Mill and helped rebuild a trolley for the Charlotte Trolley museum. He was voted “Volunteer of the Year” for giving over 600 hours of loving labor. He has also been a Boy Scout leader, a volunteer at the Dorothy Day Soup kitchen, and a board member of the Shepherd’s Center. The World War II and Korean Conflict veteran is also an active member of the American Legion.

His good works over the years inspired his council to nominate Zsiga as a “Golden Knight of the Year.”

Zsiga and his wife, the late Bernadine Reese Zsiga, raised four children: daughter Anne Marie and sons Michael, Steven and James. He is the proud grandfather of 14 children, for whom he makes handcrafted wooden toys, trains being his specialty. His wife passed away in 1995 after a long battle with cancer. Zsiga cared for her at their home until her death.

Robert Ficco, State Secretary of the Knights of Columbus and a fellow parishioner at St. Anne, summed up the admirable life of Joseph Zsiga.

“I have known and worked with Joe Zsiga for years and he is one of the most involved Knights and men I know,” he said. “He has worked, worked and worked. Despite injury and infirmity, despite the losses he has suffered, he never stopped or even slowed down his volunteering.”