Obituary: Jay R. Zahn

June 2, 1957 ~ Aug. 28, 2023

Jay R. Zahn of Sturgeon Bay, died on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023 at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay.  He was 66.  

Jay was born in Sturgeon Bay on June 2, 1957, to Roger and Gail (Ostram) Zahn. Jay is the oldest of the Zahn’s four children. Growing up, Jay and his siblings picked strawberries and cherries from 6-9 am before taking them to the family business of Zahn’s Green Thumb. Jay worked there from the age of 12 in some capacity for the entire 45 years it was open.

Jay attended Sevastopol, played trombone in the band and appeared in every school musical or play.  He graduated and was valedictorian of his class of 1975. Jay graduated from the University of Oshkosh with a bachelor of science degree in Radio and Television. He was diagnosed with kidney disease when he was 19.  He missed a semester during his junior year awaiting a kidney transplant. The cadaver kidney lasted 14 years before it failed. His mother was able to donate her kidney for his second transplant, which lasted the rest of his life.

Jay’s “first” job, other than working at Zahn’s Green Thumb, was the news director at WDOR Radio in Sturgeon Bay. He worked there until his uncle, Chester Ostram, retired after 18 years as the Door County Treasurer.  Jay ran for that office as one of seven opponents. He won the election and ran unopposed for the next 30 years. Jay was the county treasurer from January 1991 to January 2021 when he retired.

Jay was active in many clubs and associations throughout the county and the state. If he was in a club, he usually advanced to administrative positions. He was active in the Sturgeon Bay Jaycee’s and received the Keyman’s award for service and the Presidential Award of Honor.  He earned the State Award for one of 10 outstanding Wisconsinites. Jay was the President of the State Treasurer’s Association, received a Volunteer Service Award from the Kidney Foundation, was a member of the Rotary Club, the Treasurer on the Sevastopol School Board for 9 years, Treasurer of the Miss Door County program, President of the Door County Historical Society, on St. Peter’s Lutheran church council for years as well as singing in the choir. Jay was also very active in many Bridge clubs throughout the county and online during the winter months, especially during the COVID shut down. Playing Bridge was a passion he shared with his mother Gail.  

Jay was a Packer season ticket holder as well as an avid Brewer fan. After retirement, Jay enjoyed weekly “family meals” with his family and friends. They would pick out different restaurants throughout the county for weekly meals together. We would like to thank Charlene Viste, Doug McGee, Larry and Mary Maas, Betty DeGodt and family members Linda and Michael Bailey as well as his aunt Betty Ostram for joining our family for meals.  

Survivors include his brother Jan (Betty) Zahn and his sister Jody (David) Wheat both of Sturgeon Bay; nieces Lacy (Josh) Massart, Scarlett Zahn, Jenna (Steve) Pavlat and nephew Jeremy (Amber) Wheat. He is also survived by his grand nieces and nephews, Collin and Chase Massart, Kylie and Dane Soukup, Lily and Carter Pavlat.  

Jay was preceded in death by his parents, Roger and Gail Zahn; his brother, Jeff Zahn; paternal and maternal grandparents; his uncle Chester Ostram, Jr.; his aunt Marjore and uncle Bob McCartney; and his Uncle Russel Zahn.  

Friends are invited to gather on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023, at Forbes Funeral Home from 3 pm – 7:30 pm.  A devotion is scheduled for 7:30 pm that evening. Funeral services will be held at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 11:00 am. Visitation at the church will be from 10:00 am until the time of service.  Graveside services will be held immediately after the service at Bayside Cemetery. Family and friends are invited to a meal in the church basement. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Sturgeon Bay or the Door County Historical Society.

Special thank you to pastors Joel Sauer and Carl Schroeder for their numerous visits at Jay’s home and hospital visits, whether it was in Sturgeon Bay, Green Bay or Milwaukee.