Gary Zemel, aged 77, of North Plainfield, passed away on January 3rd due to complications following a fall. A lifelong resident of North Plainfield, Gary left an indelible mark through his athletic prowess, service to his country, and deep compassion for animals.
In his youth, Gary was a standout athlete at his high school, where he excelled in both football and track and field. His remarkable talent in shot put led him to become a New Jersey state champion for two consecutive years. His athletic skills earned him a full scholarship to the University of South Carolina.
However, Gary's path took a turn as he chose to serve his country. He enlisted in the US Army, where he was part of an elite canine handling unit during the Vietnam War. His bravery and dedication were recognized, making him a decorated combat veteran.
Upon returning home, Gary continued his legacy of service by becoming an EMT, dedicating many years to helping others in emergencies. But perhaps his most enduring legacy is his love for animals, particularly rescue dogs. Gary opened his home and heart to several rescue dogs over the years. Notably, he adopted Foxy, who he found in a downed hollow tree in Greenbrook Park, and Rascal, a brain-damaged dog he saved from euthanasia.
Gary is lovingly remembered by his sister, Lynn Zemel, and her husband, Don Goldblatt, of Woodhull, NY.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Gary’s honor to Paws of War at pawsofwar.org, an organization that reunites military personnel with animals they bonded with overseas. Sadly, Gary was denied this process when he was forced to leave Tux, his combat partner, behind as he left Vietnam.
All services were held privately.
Gary's life was a testament to resilience, compassion, and unwavering service, leaving a lasting impact on those he touched.