Road in Moundsville Named for Fallen Soldier
photo by: Alan Olson
MOUNDSVILLE – The Jefferson Avenue extension in Moundsville will now bear the name of a Moundsville native who died in the Vietnam War more than 50 years ago, the result of an effort from a friend and classmate.
The USMC LCpl. Leonard Joe Zelaski Jr. Memorial Road was dedicated Friday afternoon, with surviving family members and friends of the late Zelaski in attendance. The road was dedicated at the urging of friends and family, who approached Del. Charlie Reynolds, R-Marshall, to seek the state’s assistance in memorializing the road.
Zelaski, a Marshall County native, was born July 18, 1948. He attended Moundsville High School when he left to fight in Vietnam, and had already re-enlisted for a second tour of duty when he was shot and killed on March 2, 1968. He was interred at Riverview Cemetery. Zelaski received a number of medals and commendations, including the Purple Heart.
Larry McDonald, a Moundsville resident, had attended high school with Zelaski, a member of the class of ’67. Though Zelaski didn’t join his classmates at graduation, he’s still remembered as a member of their class, he said.
“He left early to do something he wanted to do and join the Marine Corps,” McDonald said. “He’s still in the class of ’67. He was fairly quiet, but Joey was a football player, super strong. He was really, really good at football, but he had other plans.”
photo by: Alan Olson
McDonald said he’d seen local efforts to memorialize local fallen veterans across Marshall County and wanted to get Zelaski among them. Reynolds worked for two years to receive the legislative citation dedicating the extension.
“I was looking at all these other signs, and I said, ‘I’m going to start getting Joey up there,'” he said. “I talked to different people that could have done it, but they never got back with me. … (Reynolds) said, ‘Larry, I’ll take care of it. Joey will have a sign.'”
Zelaski’s cousin, Andy Zelaski, described his cousin as extremely dedicated, a great soldier, and extremely proud of joining up with the Marine Corps.
“His tour of duty was nearly up and he’d already committed to re-enlist – that’s how much he loved being in the military.”
Andy Zelaski held back tears as he thanked the friends, classmates and officials who worked to dedicate the road during the brief ceremony, where the Moundsville Honor Guard recited the legislative citation.
photo by: provided
“This is truly a special day. I appreciate everybody,” Andy Zelaski said.