William Joseph Van Zyl passed away on April 27, 2020. He was born on October 29, 1937 to Blanche (Roberts) and Joseph Van Zyl in Philadelphia. Although his legal first name was William, he was called Joey as a boy, and went by Joe as an adult. He could always tell it was a telemarketer on the phone, when the caller would say “Can I speak with Bill?”
His mother Blanche died of tuberculosis in 1941 and his father married Mary Gigliotti a few years later. Together they raised Joe, along with his brothers Bob and Chuck in Upper Darby, PA.
Joe graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1955 and, in a lot of ways, lived the American Dream. Ambitious and hard-working, he started as a stock boy at the local Woolworths while in high school. When he first became a store manager, his boss had to go with him to open up a checking account for the store, because he was not yet 21. Joe rose from store manager to district manager, moving his family from Pennsylvania to Maryland to Upstate New York and finally New Jersey, ending his 42-year career working in the company’s executive office, the Woolworth Building in Manhattan.
He married Ruth I. Phillips February 24, 1962 and together they raised two daughters Sandra and Cheryl. Determined to give his children opportunities he had missed growing up, he worked hard and provided for his family well. Joe and Ruth divorced after 25 years of marriage.
After a few years, Joe started a long-term relationship with Jeanette “Penny” Borowski. They enjoyed traveling together, going out to dinner and dancing. “Poppie Joe” became a part of Penny’s family and spent many holidays with Penny and her daughter, Lisa Lacy, Lisa’s husband Ron, and Penny’s grandchildren Taylor, Nick, Rachel and Alexis, sharing in their lives.
A generous man, Joe loved to give gifts and was always on time with holiday and birthday cards. Up until the last year, he was able to live his life the way he wanted - playing poker and golf, traveling, going out to dinner, enjoying watching sports on TV especially the NY Yankees and NY Giants.
Joe was a proud grandfather of Jessica Bock and John Christensen. Jessica will fondly remember Poppie being there for her big moments like holidays, gymnastics meets and graduations; living vicariously through pictures of her travels on Facebook and bragging about her accomplishments as a nurse.
Although John lived farther away, they had special times when they were together, and were particularly grateful to have shared in celebrating Poppie’s 80th birthday, John’s college graduation in Oregon, and a trip up to Alaska last summer.
Joe is survived by his daughter Cheryl Bock of Summit and granddaughter Jessica Bock of Philadelphia; daughter, Sandra Van Zyl, husband Tim Christensen and grandson, John Christensen of Anchorage, Alaska; brother Chuck Van Zyl, brother Bob Van Zyl and sister-in-law Diane, nephews Bob, Brian and Kevin Van Zyl and their families.
A memorial will be held at a later date.
To plant a tree in memory of William Van Zyl, please visit Tribute Store
Services for William Van Zyl
There are no events scheduled. You can still show your support by planting a tree in memory of William Van Zyl.