Ernie Zimny, a 70-year drum corps personality who served as a performer, instructor, judge, contest crew member, DCI office staff member and DCI Hall of Fame member, passed away this morning in Florida.
After joining the Sinchex Booster drum and bugle corps in 1931, Zimny later marched with the General George Bell SAL drum and bugle corps before being drafted to military service in 1942, where his musical talents were recognized. He was asked to organize a full military drum corps in Temple, Texas, and continued to perform throughout his military enlistment. Upon returning to Chicago, Ernie joined the Commonwealth Edison drum and bugle corps in 1945 and later helped with the formation and instruction of the Viscounts from McHenry, Ill. During this time he also became active in the Illinois Drum and Bugle Corps Association as a member of the contest crew and was recruited to the DCI contest crew. DCI Hall of Famer Larry McCormick, who taught the Viscounts with Zimny, said, "Ernie was a wonderful soul with a great, big, loving heart." Dr. David Kampschroer, chairman of the DCI Hall of Fame committee, said, "Thank the Lord I had the opportunity to visit with Ernie a week ago. It's going to be a tragic loss for the activity. I can only hope that I have a rich and full a life as Ernie did. His contributions to the activity speak for themselves. He was involved in DCI and World Championships from its first year, back in Whitewater, Wis., in 1972." DCI field announcer Brandt Crocker remembered Zimny's concern for others as well as his polite nature. "I knew Ernie for 32 years. He was probably the kindest, most fair man I've ever known. He was always making sure us younger guys were saving up for retirement. I never heard a swear word come out of his mouth ever," Crocker said. DCI Hall of Famer Bob Briske, DCI's contest director for 27 years, noted Zimny's calming nature. "He was one of the first guys I picked for my contest committee, because he liked kids, he was talented, he was a people person and a great friend. People will remember him for being all those things. (He was a) very capable man. He put corps at ease. He was my starting guy -- he was the guy who started all the corps on the field. He was a very good, good man. You never saw him blow up, and he handled some very temperamental corps. (He was) The biggest asset on my committee I ever had," Briske said. Zimny was also involved with WGI since its inception in 1978.