Alumni Spotlight - Zuvela Family

The Zuvela Family: A Family Tradition

Zuvela Family

The year was 1937, and Peter and Mary Zuvela had just moved to Everett with six of their 10 children. Years earlier, Peter and Mary had emigrated from Croatia, and Peter worked in a Minnesota mine. They moved to Everett for better jobs and to be near family and friends in Everett and Anacortes.

Four years later, Everett Junior College opened its doors. The Zuvelas’ son, Leonard, attended the college in the late 1940s through the G.I. Bill. He received his GED through Everett Junior College (now Everett Community College or “EvCC”), and graduated while in the army, never imagining the family tradition he would set in motion that would extend to his future descendants.

The Zuvela family legacy of attending EvCC might never have happened but for a chance encounter between Leonard and a certain young woman who frequented a small cafe near the college with her friends. Her name was Fran and, as Leonard tells it, the day he met her, he stated his intentions.

“I said, 'I'm going to marry you,'” he recalled.

Fran, however, was unimpressed with his bold assertion.

“'I'm not getting married until I'm 35!'” Fran retorted. She planned to become a nurse and travel the world; she certainly didn't have time for marriage.

Undaunted, Leonard pursued Fran and the rest, as they say, is history. Only two years later, the couple was married (Fran was 19 at the time). And, in 2013, Leonard and Fran celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary.

In the intervening years since their first meeting in the cafe, at least a dozen of the Zuvelas’ descendants have attended EvCC. Put another way: Since the 1940s, there has been a Zuvela family member attending or working at EvCC in every decade.

Recently, we caught up with a few of those Zuvela family members for a closer look at how EvCC has impacted their lives.

Fran Zuvela (Leonard's wife)

In 1981, Fran received a two-year certification in medical technology from EvCC. She went on to attend Seattle University, earning her bachelor's degree in medical technology.

“I had two chemistry teachers at EvCC that I really liked,” Fran remembered, adding, “The courses were challenging and really helped to prepare me for continuing on at Seattle University.”

Violet Zuvela (Leonard's sister)

Violet attended EvCC in 1966 and 1967, majoring in foreign languages. She had originally planned to teach, but eventually ended up becoming a budget analyst for the University of Washington Medical Center.

“EvCC was a kind of bridge,” she recalled. “I had been living in Europe, came home, and enrolled at EvCC. From there, I went on to the University of Washington, graduating in 1970, after which I did a year of post-graduate work.”

Steve Zuvela (Leonard's son)

Steve attended EvCC in 1976 and 1977 and was part of the college's first varsity soccer team. After an injury in 1985, he returned to EvCC and earned his associates degree in technical arts in 1987.

“When I returned to EvCC after being injured, I didn't know what I was going to do. The advisers helped me find some direction,” he noted. “Prior to enrolling, I was given an aptitude test that indicated I'd make a good drafter. So, when I got to EvCC, I found drafting really interesting, and when they started computer drafting, it really got interesting,” he smiled.

Steve went on to work in the drafting and designing field at Boeing for a year, eventually leaving to work for Waterfront Construction, Inc. in Seattle, where he currently manages the permit department and works with many of the most prominent residents of the Seattle area providing shoreline permitting needs.

“Obviously, this job wasn't on my radar at the time I first attended EvCC, but the door was open and I stepped through it,” he said.

Christine (Zuvela) Witte – Leonard's daughter

Christine graduated from EvCC in 1972 with a two-year certificate in graphic design. She then attended Western Washington University and studied fine arts. Christine had some difficulty finding a job in the fine arts field and decided to work as a drafter because of her artistic skills.

“I found that I liked the math, so I took part-time math and physics courses,” she said. “My boss finally said that I would do much better money-wise if I got my four-year engineering degree.”

Christine returned to EvCC for two years of engineering courses and moved on to Seattle University for her four-year degree in mechanical engineering. In 2012, she retired as systems engineering manager after a 26-year career at Boeing. She worked with all the airplane models, spending most of her time with the 747.

“EvCC affected my life greatly in helping me to obtain both my art and technical degrees,” she mused. “The teachers were helpful and always there for me. And, now that I'm retired, my art background is still benefiting me as I plan to work with children at my community center, teaching art.”

Mark Witte – Married to Chris, Leonard's daughter

Mark attended EvCC in the early 1970s and took oxy acetylene and arc welding courses.

“Those courses were very well taught,” he remembered. “And I've been welding ever since.”

Mark retired from Boeing in 2007 as team leader in maintenance after 27 years with the company. Since retiring, he has been using his welding skills to restore his 1958 Ranchero and create metal sculptures.

Jenny (Zuvela) Marin – Leonard's granddaughter/Steve's daughter

Jenny attended the Running Start program at EvCC from 1999 to 2001, earning college credits while in high school, and completed a bachelor’s degree at Western Washington University in journalism and public relations.

“Attending EvCC was a natural choice for me,” she said. “The small classes helped me transition from a small school to university.”

In 2008, Jenny began working as a marketing specialist for EvCC's College Advancement Department, where she works with college publications, advertising, website, social media and other communications.

“I love helping tell the story about the importance of EvCC to our community,” she said.

Peter Zuvela – Leonard's grandson/Steve's son

Peter earned an AAS degree at EvCC in 2005, with a focus on engineering.

“I wanted to stay local,” he said. “EvCC helped me realize I wanted a hands-on career and I didn’t want to work at a computer all day.”

In his current job as warrantees/returns specialist at Randy’s Ring and Pinion in Everett, Peter gets to work with his hands and pursue his longtime passion of working with cars.

Amy Zuvela – Married to Peter, Leonard's grandson

Amy was accepted to the University of Washington, but decided to attend EvCC instead, primarily to stay in her home town. She graduated from EvCC in 2005 with an AAS degree.

“I took pretty much every history class that I could,” she remembered. “My history teacher was just great and my fondest memories of learning in the classroom were in his class.”

After graduating from EvCC, Amy was hired at Costco, where she continues her career. She recently took Leadership Snohomish County’s Leadership Challenge Program, which led to her being elected to the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation Board. She credits the college for contributing to her love of the community and community service activities.

Kristen LeMieux – Leonard’s grandniece

Kristen graduated from EvCC in 1994, majoring in political science, and recently graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of Washington (UW). She built a career working for Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and Congressman Rick Larsen and currently works in government affairs in Seattle.

“I can easily say that my best political science coursework was at EvCC,” she enthused. “The writing requirements were more challenging than at the UW, and I could go on and on about how wonderful my instructors were at EvCC.”

Kristen was also on the student council while attending EvCC and simply states, “We had way too much fun with that!”