Paul R. Zei

Paul Zei 3

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Paul R. Zei, 90, of La Crosse passed away on February 5, 2021, after a two-year battle with cancer. He passed away at home with loved ones by his side.

Paul was born March 26, 1930, in Stevens Point to Peter and Inez Zei. He was a graduate of P.J. Jacob High School and joined the Air Force during the Korean War, attaining the rank of staff sergeant. After returning from military service, he attended UW-Stevens Point and received his bachelor’s degree in 1957. In 1958, he married his college sweetheart, Arlene Golomski, and they moved to Iowa City, where he earned his master’s degree in social work from University of Iowa. He began his career in Green Bay as psychiatric social worker at the Brown County Guidance Clinic. In 1971 he and Arlene and their five children settled in La Crosse, where he became administrator of the La Crosse Guidance Clinic. It transitioned to the Human Services Department, and he became its first administrator. He retired in July 1988.

Paul had several interests. During his military service and college years, he was a tenor soloist with several men’s choral groups and later sang in church choirs. He also shared his beautiful voice for weddings and special events. Opera was his greatest musical love. He especially appreciated Enrico Caruso and Jussi Björling. He was also interested in the great classic cars of the 1930s and at one time owned two Pierce-Arrows, which he worked at restoring. He was an avid trout fisherman and enjoyed hunting.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Arlene; their children, Christopher (Debra), Stephen, Matthew, Jennifer (Christo) Stavrou and Rebecca; grandchildren Ashley, Alexis, Maxwell and Eva; his brother Dr. John Zei, and several nephews, nieces, and cousins.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Peter and Inez Zei; brothers Peter and William, and his sisters, Florence, June, Mary and baby Elizabeth.

A special thanks to the doctors, nurses and the hospice team of kind and compassionate caregivers from Mayo Clinic; Monsignor Richard Gilles for his spiritual support; the Cathedral Church community for their prayers and kindness; and all the caring and supportive neighbors and friends.

A funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral, 530 Main St., La Crosse. Msgr. Richard Gilles will officiate, with internment to be held at a later date in the Catholic Cemetery, La Crosse. The Mass can be watched via livestream at for those who would like to attend virtually.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be offered to the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman or Catholic Charities Warming Center.

Online condolences may be made at