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Parade called off, but local WW2 vet honored virtually

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

The “Honor Cruise” didn’t go on as planned, but plenty of people still took a moment to thank Art Zanotti for his lifetime of service, to his country and his community.

Christopher Anthony, who is manager at Otto’s Oasis in Charles City and a local history buff, tried to organize a drive-by parade in honor of Zanotti on Sunday. Zanotti, one of the few remaining World War II veterans in the community, turned 96 years old on Saturday.

“It is with much sadness that the ‘Honor Cruise’ that was to take place tomorrow around the hospital will have to be cancelled,” Anthony posted on Facebook Saturday. “I am so pleased by the amount of messages from all that know Art and Mary Ann and very thankful to all those that planned to make the cruise and have helped to promote it. Please keep Art and his family in your prayers.”

There was something of a virtual parade on social meda, however. As of Monday afternoon, there were more than 170 reactions and nearly 70 comments on the Press Facebook Page, all of them thanking Art and his wife, Mary Ann, for their service to the country and the community and wishing Art happy birthday. An announcement on Anthony’s own Facebook page had a similar number of reactions and comments.

Comments included memories of Zanotti’s time on the school board in Charles City and stories about pheasant hunting with Art, as well as stories about Mary Ann’s time as a teacher in Charles City.

The cruise was initially scheduled to pass the Zanotti’s house, but on Saturday, Anthony learned that Art had some medical complications and had been moved back to the hospital. Anthony adjusted the route to run past Floyd County Medical Center. Nurses had been made aware of the drive-by parade, and were preparing a room for Zanotti with a swing bed from which he could view the cars as they drove by and honked.

Unfortunately, Anthony later visited with the Zanotti family and learned that Art’s condition had worsened overnight, making the parade impossible. Anthony asked everyone interested to keep the Zanotti’s in their prayers.

Art Zanotti served in the U.S. Army during World War II in Africa, Italy and other places in Europe. Born in 1924 in Keota, Missouri, Zanotti graduated high school in 1943. He worked in coal mines for a few months before getting drafted, and served 22 months as an infantryman during WW2.

Art served in the European Theater, in Italy, in the 36th Engineer Regiment. He made amphibious landings, did bridgework and infantry. He initially landed in North Africa, served most of his tour in Italy, and ended up in Austria at the end of the war in Europe. He earned a Purple Heart when he was injured while enduring German shelling.

Art went to school on the GI Bill, and graduated from Iowa State with an engineering degree before coming to Charles City, where work at the tractor plant and hometown girl Mary Ann persuaded him to make the town his home.

Art Zanotti was foundry manager at Oliver — which became White Farm — before the tractor plant closed in 1993. He retired after 42 years of service at the plant.

Mary Ann was a National 19th Amendment Society member and was Charles City Woman of the Year in 1994. She taught elementary school in Charles City for 30 years, and at one time, she was heavily involved in community projects.

Mary Ann met Art when he moved to Charles City to work at what was then Oliver. Art boarded across the street from Mary Ann’s mother’s home. The two were married in 1952 and have been a couple for 68 years. They raised three children and now have two grandchildren.

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