Zehnder, Walter


Walter Zehnder was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1947. His father was born and raised in Kentucky, before serving in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. His mother grew up in Queens, New York, where his family later lived when he was a young child. With his father working at the pharmaceutical S.B. Penick and Company, the family settled in West Paterson, now known as Woodland Park. He attended the parochial school St. Bonaventure and public high school at Passaic Valley Regional.

As a freshman at Rutgers in 1965, he lived in Clothier Hall. After starting in the engineering program, he switched his major to history and education and recalls Henry Winkler, Peter Charanis and Richard P. McCormick as memorable history professors and the education curriculum as being progressive and experimental. He participated in Air Force ROTC and the Colonial Color Guard for two years and joined Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. He remembers Barry Goldwater, Ayn Rand and Eugene McCarthy speaking on campus. During his third year at Rutgers, he met his future wife, then a Douglass student, and they later were married at Kirkpatrick Chapel. He marched in an anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C. and, in his oral history, describes the apprehension surrounding the first draft lottery in 1969.

After graduation, he went to law school at night at Seton Hall, while teaching at St. Benedict's Prep and then at a middle school in Metuchen. He continued his law studies at McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, California.

Mr. Zehnder spent his career working in the insurance industry, initially as a claim representative and then as a supervisor at Aetna Life and Casualty, during which time he and his family relocated to Florida. After Travelers bought out Aetna's property and casualty business, he and some co-workers decided to start up their own business, Heausler/Zehnder and Associates Inc., doing insurance investigations primarily involving nursing home claims, which his wife also became involved in running. He went on to work in management positions at the Residential Joint Underwriting Association, Citizens Property Insurance, Poe Financial Group and Security First Managers until his retirement in 2016.

Walter Zehnder's oral history is a part of the Class of 1970 Oral History Project to commemorate the class's fiftieth reunion milestone.