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Engineer fulfilled by tinkering, singing

William Bell Zollars, 82, of Upper St. Clair, died Friday, Sept. 20, 2013.

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Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

No man's phony, engineer Bill Zollars lived a life light on glamour and high on observation.

“I was taking pictures of mountains and pyramids while he was taking shots of electrical lines,” said Elsa Reese Zollars, his wife of 56 years. “You always knew what you were getting with Bill.”

William Bell Zollars of Upper St. Clair died Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. He was 82.

The couple traveled to more than 25 countries, including Mr. Zollars' boyhood home in Rio de Janeiro, where he picked up the Portuguese that he spoke fluently. He sang in the choir at Christ United Methodist Church, making every performance even when it required he slip in quietly through the back.

“He lived his life simply,” his wife said. “He was a lot more interested in problem-solving and making sure everyone around him was comfortable and provided for.”

Mr. Zollars, who spent his 37-year career as an electrical engineer with Alcoa, was the ultimate tinkerer.

“We never had to call in a repairman,” said his son, Bill Zollars of Upper St. Clair, who also became an engineer.

They bonded over build-it-yourself TV kits and Fiberglas kayak plans.

A graduate of Duke University who served in the Air Force, Mr. Zollars stayed on the forefront of technology. His son said he became one of the first in his field to operate primitive software that set the sagging length for electrical lines, no matter the weather or strength of the current.

“Oh, he wired everything,” his wife said. “I prefer an on-off switch, and he's got a remote for every gadget in our house. I'm going to be in trouble later when I need to turn off the lights.”

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Zollars is survived by two daughters, Mary Beth Zollars of Bethel Park and Jean Anne Zollars of Albuquerque, and four grandchildren.

Friends are welcome from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in Laughlin Memorial Chapel, 222 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon. A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday in Christ United Methodist Church.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Music Ministry at Christ United Methodist Church, 44 Highland Road, Bethel Park, PA 15102, or the South Hills Chorale, 6002 Belle Terre Court, Bridgeville, PA 15017.

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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