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July 13, 2024

Obituary: Zanger was Casa de Fruta icon, ‘cup flipper’

Eugene A. Zanger passed away in the early morning hours of Monday March 25, 2019.

Eugene was the son of Dr. and Mrs. Henry G. Zanger of San Jose, California. He was born in San Jose on October 6, 1930. He is predeceased by his parents, his sisters, Claire Tearse and Phyllis Fournier, brothers, George and Joseph Zanger-his granddaughter Jenna Marie Zanger, nephew Henry George III, son-in-law Yasir Khalifa, brother-in-law Herb Tearse, sister- in- law Patricia Zanger and brother in law Don Fournier.

Surviving are his loving wife Pauline Zanger; children Ann Marie, Barbara and Anibal, Gene and Annie, Mike and Brenda, Chuck, Susan and Sam; 16 grandchildren who he loved with great pride – Katrina, Nate, Dominic, Zach, Carly, Josh, Ben, Quin, Malek, Alejandro, Jessica, Nicholas, Madeline, Timothy, Lukas and Caitlin; brother- and sister-in-law Dr. Louis and Martha Zanger; sister-in-law Mary Zanger; sister-in-law Kathy Ruiz along with many nieces and nephews.

Eugene was an active boy growing up. While still in the 8th grade he exercised racehorses, one of which would win at Bay Meadows and Tanforan Racetracks. He boxed in his freshman year at Bellarmine College Preparatory School and at the end of the year was asked to go to the Golden Gloves in Chicago. As a sophomore he was a real thespian chosen to take the lead in the Senior Play — Brother Orchid — at Bellarmine.

In his teenage years, he and two brothers had responsibility for a 1400-acre cattle ranch with approximately 30 head of cattle. He shod his first horse at 16 years of age and began to fully break a horse that same year. He was chosen as best appearing Junior Horseman and with his brother won first place with two horses and working equipment from one ranch on the track at the California Rodeo in Salinas. Eugene also won second place in the model stock horses on halter with his mare, Duchess, which he had broken after attending the University of California at Berkeley.

Eugene, along with two brothers George and Joseph, started a fruit growing ranch from his mother’s inheritance of 30 acres which they developed into a ranch of 600 acres. They grew cherries, apricots, pears, prunes, and walnuts harvesting over a six-month period, five months actual harvest. Eugene was responsible for irrigation and cultivation that at times was done on a 24-hour basis. He was also responsible for the mechanic shop and equipment. From a small fruit stand which they operated began the development of Casa de Fruta, a large tourist complex.

There were not many challenges that Eugene would not take on or succeed at. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Eugene attended Monterey Peninsula College-Hotel Motel, Food Service school and at one point was president of the school’s extracurricular Food Service Organization.

He was in charge of food service at the complex and management at the Casa de Fruta Restaurant for 30 years. He won numerous awards for his restaurant service. He was alson known as the “Cup Flipper” for over 25 years. While greeting and seating guests Eugene would serve coffee while flipping their cups to an upright position into which he would pour coffee. As a result of this feat he was asked to appear on the David Letterman Show which he did in December of 1987. He flipped over 2,000,000 cups for locals and tourists from around the world.

In 1958 Eugene married Pauline, his father’s office nurse. They had six children, four of whom are presently in management of the complex.

Services for Eugene will be at 1 p.m. on April 5t with a Celebration of Life Mass at St. Benedict’s Church, 1200 Fairview Road, Hollister. Inurnment will be private.

Donations are preferred to Sacred Heart School Foundation c/o the mortuary.

Obituary courtesy of Grunnagle-Ament-Nelson Funeral Home.