William E. Zentgraf, a retired business executive and Navy veteran, died of complications from pancreatitis Tuesday at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia. He was 73 and lived in Ellicott City.
Mr. Zentgraf worked for nearly 20 years for Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., and was director of human resources for the company's Mid-Atlantic region when he retired in 1997.
Before that, he had worked in sales and other positions at Lever Brothers in Baltimore and New York, at the Noxell Corp. and at International Trading Co., a distributor of specialty chemicals.
Mr. Zentgraf met his wife of 52 years, the former June Pitz, during a church function in Baltimore when they were high school students, Mrs. Zentgraf said. They married when both were age 20, she said.
In retirement, Mrs. Zentgraf said, her husband's great joy was spending time with their five grandchildren, ages 10 to 15.
"They were the light of his life," she said. "We had a big tractor and he would take the children for a ride, and they loved that."
He enjoyed skiing, motorcycle riding and golf, his wife said.
Mr. Zentgraf served in the Navy aboard the battleship USS New Jersey during the Korean War and received several battle stars. He was a member of the USS New Jersey Veterans Association and the Naval Memorial Association.
An active Mason, Mr. Zentgraf was a past Master of Palestine Lodge No. 189 and was elected to leadership positions in other Masonic lodges over the years.
Services were held Friday at First Lutheran Church in Ellicott City, where he was a member.
In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Duane E. Zentgraf of Cambridge; a daughter, Sharon A. Veltre of Woodbine; and five grandchildren.