HESPERIA Gil Zank, a Hesperia Chamber of Commerce stalwart for decades, died Saturday.


Zank, 89, had been battling prostate cancer for the past year. He would have been 90 on Oct. 16.


A World War II Army veteran who had landed on Normandy Beach during the D-Day invasion, Zank and his wife Margaret were an inseparable duo during their three decades in Hesperia civic life. Margaret, his wife of 68 years, died in May.


"Gil Zank exemplified what it means to be part of a community," said former mayor Dennis Nowicki. "As an individual, he was a very good man. Raised his family, had a wonderful wife, supported our country in World War II. As a friend of mine, he showed me that you could get out in the community and make friends that you would not normally make friends with."


A Wisconsin native and retired insurance agent, Zank and Margaret joined the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce in 1979. In 1984, he organized the chamber's first annual golf tournament. In 1995, he started the weekly Friday morning coffee club meeting. Today, the meetings are regularly attended by up to 100 local business owners. Zank was named Hesperian of the Year by the chamber in 1983.


"Gil Zank was the pioneer of the Hesperia chamber for many years," said Matt Hawkins, chairman of the board of the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce, "His dedication and drive to build and grow the chamber was phenomenal. ... He'll be very missed."


In recent years, Zank worked as a community liaison of Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt.


"Gil and Margaret were just great people and part of the Greatest Generation" of World War II veterans, said Mitzelfelt. "I know that Gil really loved the High Desert and Hesperia in particular. Anybody who ever met him knew he was just a genuinely good person and a hard worker. It was a pleasure to know him and to have worked with him."


Late last year, the Zanks moved to the Sterling Inn in Victorville, as the couple required more regular medical care. Even there, however, Zank began organizing community events.


"You know Gil, he's sitting around in the evenings," said longtime family friend and caregiver Sherry Dodson. "Gil thought 'well, let me bring down my radio and get some music playing.' ... The next thing you know, we're up to 30-something people."


A memorial for Zank will be held on Nov. 5 (Margaret's birthday) at 1 p.m. at the Zanks' home. Call (619) 980-3505 or email gilzank@yahoo.com for more information.


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.