By JENNIFER MEIER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
A beautiful Victorian in downtown Middlebury sports purple, pink and lilac trim, an impressive turret, an inviting wrap-around porch filled with flowers, gigantic hanging Boston ferns and comfortable wicker furniture. The home is a familiar sight to many Middlebury residents.
Even more familiar to those residents are the homeowners Dick and Jolinda Zook, this year’s Middlebury Summer Festival Parade grand marshals.
Now retired after many years in the business world, the Zooks often find time to sit on their front porch, watching the neighborhood goings-on, talking with passersby, and listening to the church bells that ring clearly from the bell tower of the church just to the east of their home.
“Where else can you hear ‘Jesus Loves Me’?” Jolinda said with a smile. “Everybody is so friendly. People will stop by and come up on the porch to visit. And we often have dinner out here.”
After 30 years of living in the stately Victorian, Jolinda is still enamored with the town of Middlebury.
Until she was 14, Jolinda lived in Lakewood, Ohio, near Cleveland. When she moved to Elkhart County she became the “new girl” at Concord Junior High School.
Dick Zook, a fellow student, took notice.
“We didn’t date then or anything, we just knew each other,” Jolinda said. “Then at the start of our junior year, Dick’s family moved to Florida.”
The Zook family, who had been in the Elkhart County area for seven generations, stayed two years in the Sunshine State. When Dick returned in the summer after his and Jolinda’s freshman year of college, the two became reacquainted. That was in 1959.
They were married a year later and recently celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary.
Sometime during her high school years, Jolinda visited and fell in love with the town of Middlebury.
“I felt like I had a connection with the town,” Jolinda said. “I never dreamed I’d live here.”
But in 1966 the couple moved to a home Dick built on Hunter Lake just north of downtown. And by 1983 they had become “townspeople,” moving into the beautiful Victorian that Jolinda had often admired.
Over the years, the Zooks have owned Backyard Pools and the popular Middlebury gift shop The Cinnamon Stick. They sold the latter business in 2005 to Middlebury residents Levi and Joanna King.
“We’ve always worked together — our whole life — 24/7.” Jolinda said with a laugh.
The Zooks have three children, DiLynn, Rob and Jill, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Dilynn and Greg Puckett own Language Art in Middlebury, Jill Adams is a mortgage broker in Chicago and their son Rob is the principal at Concord Junior High School. His wife Amy is the school nurse at Northridge Middle School.
Dick and Jolinda were an integral part of the Middlebury Merchants, now known as the Middlebury Chamber of Commerce, as well as active members of the Crystal Valley Tourist Association.
Jolinda treasures the time she spent on the board of the Goshen Health Hospital System.
“It was a memorable and an important time,” she said. “The first year I was on the board in 1996, the Cancer Center was only a dream.”
By the time she left the board in 2005, the center was open and operating.
“I was there long enough to see it come to fruition,” Jolinda said. “It really was a memorable time for the hospital, the community and for me. It was both an exciting and a tough time.”
Even though the couple is retired, they stay busy.
Jolinda gardens, reads, sketches, paints and stays active with her children and grandchildren. Dick has the Victorian to keep him busy.
“I also help out Dilynn and Greg at Language Art,” Dick said. “And I guess you could say I’m a regular at the Village Inn for breakfast and coffee.”
Both agree that there is a strong sense of community in Middlebury. And that makes the title of grand marshal even more special to the Zooks.
“It’s exciting and an honor that we were asked,” Dick said.
The Zooks will lead the 1 p.m. Saturday parade down Main Street in Middlebury.