Clinton J. Zeh

Clinton Zeh

Clinton Zeh

FEURA BUSH — Clinton J. Zeh died on Monday, May 22, 2017. He was 82. Surrounded by family until the end, Mr. Zeh was known for his love of the outdoors and willingness to help others.

Mr. Zeh was born on March 2, 1935, in Colonie, where he grew up across from the now-defunct Engel’s Farm on Albany-Shaker Road. The son of the late Clark and Edith (née Heckel) Zeh, he was the fifth oldest of 12 children, with eight brothers and three sisters. Mr. Zeh’s father owned his own plumbing business.

“They didn’t have a lot of money,” said his daughter, Diane Donahue.

Growing up, Mr. Zeh used to walk from Albany’s airport in Colonie to the Philip Livingston Middle School in downtown Albany. He left school in ninth grade, but this didn’t prevent him from being knowledgeable in a variety of tasks, his daughter, Deborah Lee said — he was even able to solve math figures in his head.

When he was 12 years old, Mr. Zeh’s mother died. When he was 18, his father also died. To support the family, he and his brother Clark took over his father’s business, while his younger siblings started working at Engel’s Farm.

“They were considered the orphans of Colonie,” said Mrs. Donahue.

Shortly after becoming a plumber, Mr. Zeh joined the Local #7 Plumbers and Steamfitters Union in Latham, of which he remained a proud member of for over 50 years. He retired from the union in his 70s, after which he started his own excavating business, C&W Land Service, Inc., before selling it to his partner after about five years.

He met his first wife, Jane McNay, at a roller rink. They were married in 1953, and moved to Albany. The two enjoyed traveling to Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondacks and spending time with Mr. Zeh’s family. Within seven years, they had had six children.

Mr. Zeh loved children and was “the type of person that every kid talked to,” said Mrs. Donahue. Although he worked hard, sometimes taking on more than one job, he was “all about family.” He even hosted a family reunion every August for the last 20 years.

He was also a “very caring and loving” grandfather, said his granddaughter, Sarah Donahue. “He was always interested in your life,” she said.

“When you needed a hand, he was always there,” said his granddaughter, Deanna Lee. Now studying civil engineering, she said her grandfather helped her get into the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s camp, where she first explored her interests in helping the environment.

In 1977, Mr. Zeh and his wife moved to Feura Bush.

“My dad always loved the country,” explained Mrs. Donahue.

An outdoorsman, Mr. Zeh first began hunting at a camp his father would bring him to. His father’s friend later took him to property he was a caretaker of in Copake, in Columbia County, where they would hunt. Mr. Zeh’s children and grandchildren still go there.

He was a long-time member of many Rod and Gun Clubs, including the Voorheesville Club, where he held many positions. He also liked to fish and garden. Mr. Zeh grew vegetables; and his children said he liked to eat every kind of vegetable; and every and any kind of food. Growing up poor, he was taught not to waste food, and this led to him trying lamb’s tongue, oxtail, limburger cheese, and Wyoming antelope.

“Everything — he would try anything,” said Mrs. Lee.

Mr. Zeh also loved dogs. He was a member of the New Scotland Beagle Club, and kept beagles most of his life. His most recent pets, ChiChi and Roseta, however, are papillons — long-haired, toy-sized spaniels. He had them because his second wife loved them.

Mr. Zeh’s first wife died after 34 years of marriage. He had met and befriended Frances Field-Smith at the various job sites he worked at. She and her husband at the time had a coffee truck they brought to the sites. Both widowed, she and Mr. Zeh eventually married and were together for 20 years.

A generous man, Mr. Zeh would be there for anyone and for any reason. With a number of skills under his belt, he was always able to help, even building Mrs. Lee’s house and doing plumbing on the home.

“He was just there, for whatever reason,” she said.


Mr. Zeh is survived by his wife, Frances (formerly Field-Smith) Zeh; his children: Michael Zeh and his significant other, Judy Werking; Kenneth Zeh and his wife, Mary; Diane Donahue and her husband, Mark; and Deborah Lee and her husband, Mike; his step-children: Thomas Smith and his wife, Dayle; Berry Smith and his wife, Tish; and Michelle Church and her husband, Glen; his 17 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren; his siblings: Elizabeth Toomey; Ronald Zeh and his wife, Carolyn; Joseph Zeh and his significant other, Charlene Zollo; and Richard Zeh and his wife, Susan; his sister-in-law Delores “Hoppy” Zeh; and many nieces, nephews and friends.

Mr. Zeh’s parents, Clark and Edith (née Heckel) Zeh, died before him; as did his first wife, Jane (née McNay) Zeh; his sons, William “Bill” Zeh, and John Zeh; his siblings: Virginia, Hazel, Clark, Harold, Raymond, Douglas, and Robert; and several in-laws.

Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 25 at New Comer Funeral & Cremations, 181 Troy Schenectady Road, in Watervliet. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 26, at the funeral home. A burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Glenmont.

Donations may be made in his memory to the Ronald McDonald House, 139 South Lake Ave., Albany, NY 12208.

— H. Rose Schneider

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