In Memory of Mr. Zaharia 1922-1978

Students and teachers from the early years of General Navereau School at Metz will remember the contribution of Mr. Mike Zaharia to overseas education. When the decision was made to send Canadian forces to Europe in 1953, Mike, a science teacher from Manitoba, was serving in the R.C.A.F. and was among the first air force personnel to be sent to 2 Wing, Grostenquin. Dependents unexpectedly began to arrive contrary to the Department of National Defence’s expectations, and F/O Zaharia as Education Officer was told to find a solution to the problem of dependents’ education. He became the organizer of the first temporary ad hoc schools at 2 Wing and thus one of the founders of DND Overseas Schools. During this time he married a French citizen, a medical doctor in Nancy, and left the Air Force. He and his wife moved to Saskatchewan where they lived for two years. After the DND Overseas Schools were formally established they returned to France and he became the teacher of senior science at General Navereau School in Metz, 1958-1960. The increasing enrolment required additional space and when the high school grades were moved to a separate building from the junior school in 1960, Mr. Zaharia became the first principal of General Navereau High School. In 1962 he was named Inspector of DND Secondary Schools and he served in this capacity until 1967. Although he no longer had direct contact with students, some of those who remained in Metz occasionally ran into him on the base. Teachers enjoyed his company at lunch in the Officers’ Mess when he was not visiting schools at the Wings or at the Canadian army bases. His enthusiasm for education, French culture and interesting automobiles were always evident.  Mike had one of the first air conditioned cars in France, a 1964 Rambler, and delighted in driving on the Côte d’Azur in August with all windows closed, attracting mystified stares from French drivers.

In 1967 the closing of the Canadian bases in France resulted in the DND Overseas Schools offices being moved to Lahr, West Germany.  Mr. Zaharia moved there with a new position and new responsibilities although his family base was still Nancy.. He became Assistant Superintendent: Secondary Schools and played a significant role in the reorganization of dependant schools after the relocation from France. Mr. Zaharia remained in this post until his death from cardiac arrest on June 8, 1978 while in his 58th year. He is buried in the Choloy Cemetery near Nancy, France.

Gordon MacKinnon

See also Choloy Military Cemetery Information

Globe and Mail Obituary: Zaharia, Michael

In hospital, Ottawa June 8, 1978. Beloved husband of Vera Zakusilo in his 58th year. A funeral service in Lahr, West Germany, June 14 at 9 a.m. Internment in Canadian Military Cemetery, Cholois, France. Donations may be made to the Mike Zaharia Memorial Fund for student scholarship c/o Arthur Titus executive assistant to the Director of Dependants Education, Canadian Forces Europe, CFPO 5000, K0K 3R0.

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