Richard Zabriskie
Richard Zabriskie
Richard Zabriskie
Richard Zabriskie
Richard Zabriskie
Richard Zabriskie

Obituary of Richard Elmer Zabriskie

Richard “Dick” Zabriskie was promoted to the Church Triumphant on April 17, 2024. He passed peacefully after a brief illness, only 13 days after Karen, his wife of 68 years. Born August 1929 to Elmer and Mildred Zabriskie, he lived in his hometown of Englewood, New Jersey, until college. He earned a scholarship to Princeton University where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in History. He soon found his true calling in the Ministry. He attended McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, earning a Master’s in Divinity, and was ordained to the Ministry in June 1954. He later earned his second Master’s Degree in Counseling and Guidance from the University of North Dakota.


Dick met Karen Lea Benson, a nurse, while ministering to patients at Augustana Hospital in Chicago. They were married in August 1955. He served his first congregation as Assistant Pastor at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, quickly followed by being Pastor for both Faith and Berean Presbyterian Churches in Milwaukee. In 1962, he was called to be the Pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Wisconsin.  Dick and Karen had three sons and a daughter.


Dick was called to First Presbyterian Church in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 1970, before being called to his last official ministry in Sun City, Arizona, at First Presbyterian Church in 1986 where he eventually retired in 1994. He remained active in retirement though and was often asked to guest preach at campground/RV parks and area churches, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Highlights of his career included an exchange with another pastor and his family in England, and baptizing, marrying, and laying to rest countless people. Five of his grandchildren were honored to have him officiate their weddings.


Dick’s hobbies included handball, tennis, playing cards and games with friends and family, singing in the Arizona Masterworks Chorale for years, and traveling with Karen to many countries and across the U.S. They especially enjoyed spending summers along the Oregon/Washington coastline in their RV. At 65 years old, he hiked rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon with his son, Steve.


Dick and Karen hosted several tours for congregation members to the Holy Lands through Educational Opportunities Tours, and he was a member of a Presbyterian Study Seminar to the Middle East in 1989, where he reported gaining insight into the Israeli/ Palestinian relations, and grappled with possible solutions. Dick proudly participated in a Civil Rights March in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. His service activities included being a member of the Northwest Maricopa County United Nations Association, volunteering at the Food Bank, giving blood regularly, and being a member of the "Ready Team" for the United Blood Bank.


One thing family looked forward to was reunions, specifically evenings around the campfire, where Dick would lead everyone, including eight grandchildren, in spirited songs with his guitar and joyful singing voice.


He is survived by three sons, Mark (Michelle) Zabriskie, Steven (Amber) Zabriskie, and Scott (Cindy) Zabriskie; and daughter, Kristine Zabriskie (Steve) Olson; grandchildren, Alex, Rachel (Ben), Kelli (Ryan), Aaron (Caleigh), Isaac, Luke (Kaylee), Christopher (special step-grandson), Annalise, and Peter; five great-grandchildren, Cooper, Finn, Lucy, Jude, and Gus. Dick was preceded in death by his wife, Karen Zabriskie; parents, Elmer and Mildred Zabriskie; and sister, Marion Wendover.


You’re invited to celebrate the lives of Dick and Karen in a joint Celebration of Life on Saturday, June 15, 2024, 11:00 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 12225 N 103rd Ave., Sun City, AZ 85351.


The family encourages gifts given in memory of Dick and Karen be made to Habitat for Humanity, Central Arizona,, to help build a West Valley home for those in need, an activity for which they volunteered and proudly supported. 



Loving Remembrances of Dad - Richard Zabriskie

~by daughter, Kris Zabriskie Olson


“He's such a nice man!” and “I love your father!” are some of the kind remarks I often heard when I met someone who knew Dad.  That’s enough to make a child feel great about their parent, but there’s so much more to be thankful for.  Dad was a man who truly loved life and genuinely cared about others. Although he was a minister in the Presbyterian faith and believed in that theology and the methods of governance propounded by the Presbyterian Church USA, he was accepting and respectful of others and their beliefs and choices. He believed in equality and respect for all people.  One of the times that that was particularly evident was when he joined some other pastors who risked their own well-being and drove to Montgomery, Alabama, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to join the marches for equality inspired by Martin Luther King in 1965. 


Dad encouraged and promoted peaceful approaches to conflict at home and abroad, once participating in a Presbyterian study seminar to the Middle East in 1989, where he reported he gained insight into Israeli/Palestinian relations and worked on possible solutions.  He was deeply burdened by war and he often vocalized his grief over the casualties. 


Besides this more serious side, Dad had a light, “punny” side.  I recall Dad driving our old station wagon full of my mother and three brothers on vacation and randomly shouting, “There’s a pink elephant!” or “There’s a polka dot penguin!” to which he got a quizzical response and would then laugh and proceed to point out just how beautiful the clouds were or how interesting the landscape was.  When he played cards or games with family, he would often break into uncontrollable laughter that still rings through our hearts and brings great joy.  He loved eating out and always valued it as a real treat.   When he received a gift, he would recall and mention often how he appreciated it.  He attended occasions that were special to us and never hesitated to tell us he was proud of our accomplishments.


Dad loved playing tennis into his 70s and kept a regular walking schedule into his 90s.  He loved travel and helped to arrange some educational tours with Mom around the globe.  I learned to turn around on trick skis because he was patient enough to turn the boat around at least 20 times to pick me up and pull me repeatedly one summer afternoon while camping near Cass Lake, Minnesota. He loved to sing and sang with the Princeton University Chapel Choir and the Masterworks Chorale in Arizona.  He sang solos and duets in church and perhaps best of all, sang robust campfire and folk songs with family and friends.  He even acted in a community theatre production in New Jersey in his youth that was directed by John Travolta’s mother!


Besides being proud that he was such a “nice guy,” one of the qualities I admired most was the empathy he showed to other people.  He never hesitated to educate himself on issues or events so that he could understand people and their positions and encourage peaceful respect for others. 


I’ll keep striving to be more like you Dad. You did good!  Love you!



A Poem of Remembrance for Richard Zabriskie

~by son, Scott Zabriskie

April 2024


Dad, I remember …

Your strong clear voice and your spirit-filled presence,

Leading your church on Sundays with conviction and reverence,

The sureness of your words testifying of the Truth that is His,

With logic and passion about all that He gives.


I felt …

Your inspired joy at every God-breathed scene of natural beauty

In rocky shorelines, color-streaked sunsets, and mountains of the Almighty

You worshiped His making with deep respect and admiration,

And fully appreciated living, surrounded by the wonder of all creation.


I wondered …

At your elegant capacity to comfort and befriend everyone in your path,

Never hesitating to share kind words, a smile or a laugh.

And with your family, never judgement or rebuke,

but always encouragement, compassion, and a caring outlook


I envied …

How in every situation your were always honest to the core. 

There is no one whose word I could ever trust more. 

To be like you is the worthiest and highest aim.

That’s why we all agree, you were the best at this game.


I recall …

Being little with you more than once on Christmas Eve,

After the candlelight service and the late holiday party we’d leave,

You’d carry me in from the car and put me to bed. 

I wasn’t really asleep in your arms, just enjoying your heart close to my head.


I relish …

The memory of your untamed and explosively quiet laughter,

Like on that Christmas night 1973 when you kept crashing my new whirly-bird toy helicopter.

Over and over you piloted it poorly into the side of the ship.

We were howling so hard, tears of joy … quite lost our grip.


I marveled …

As you commanded the courts of handball and tennis,

With the wing span of a pterodactyl, like a soaring menace.

You gracefully danced side to side and back to front,

with the unflappable patience of a wise and seasoned elephant.


I loved …

That you always loved us, supporting everything we did,

From sports and academics, to career, our faith and our kids.

That love always grounded us, yet empowered us to sail free,

Unafraid of the world and better able to see.


I honor … 

A humble but incredible and monumental man. 

A genuinely good soul, who understood God’s plan.

It’s because of your teaching about Him transcending all space and time

That I’ll always feel connected to your love and you’ll always have mine.


I pledge …

As you leave us, that wherever I go, in His grand sunsets I WILL still see you,

And whenever His proclamations are spoken, I’ll hear YOUR voice echo and ring true.

I’ll feel your heart louder each Christmas and watch your legacy live on in our kids.

I’ll picture you adventuring with Mom in the eternal kingdom where we’ll all one day live.


Be at peace, my beloved Dad, and enjoy your new life until we meet again. 




~by son, Mark Zabriskie


My soul was truly blessed

When you taught me oh so young

With character and justice

See the good in everyone


With reverence and grace

You always helped the meek

You marched and were assaulted

But you turned the other cheek


Gave your money and your time

To the church and Habitat

Wore your members only jacket

Donned your treasured fishing hat


You traveled and you camped

Strummed a cowboy melody

Sang for family, friends and church

Majestic and heavenly


You were ethical and honest

Trusting others be the same

Your printer and computer

Well, the scammers were to blame


Loved your peanuts and ice cream

Got the pit in Cherry pies

Had a joyous funny bone

Laughed ‘til tears were in your eyes


You’re loved by many people

For your kindness and your grace

Your impact was substantial

And the world’s a better place


Now your days are finally over

You can lie down, you can rest

You served the Lord with gladness

You gave us all the BEST



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