The Shasta-Trinity National Forest is mourning the loss of Shasta Lake Ranger District Fish Biologist Joe Zustak. Joe unexpectedly passed away at his home in Bella Vista on April 18 due to a sudden heart attack. Joe was 67 years old and worked as a Fish Biologist for the Shasta Lake Ranger District for 33 years.
“Joe will be remembered most for his passion for life, his family and his career,” said Shasta Lake District Ranger Sara Acridge. “Joe represented the best of the forest and agency and he made many wonderful contributions to the biology program and the local community. Please keep his family, friends and coworkers in your thoughts and prayers, as we come together to remember Joe.”
Joe was well-known for his kindness, enthusiasm and willingness to help work with multiple departments on many projects over his long career. Joe was passionate about youth-centered outdoor education, specifically his long standing partnership with Bella Vista elementary school. He took Mrs. Griffith’s third grade class fishing every year during National Fishing Week. He also helped lead the Bald Eagle program and habitat improvement projects on Shasta Lake with Mr. McKenzie’s and Mrs. Manning’s fourth grade classes.
Joe assisted in driving for the Forest Service Fire Cache and working on wildfires as a Resource Advisor and this was something he looked forward to every year. Another highlight for Joe was cooking the fish that he caught during the district’s yearly get-together called the “Fish Fry.”
Joe taught taxidermy classes at Shasta Junior College and was quite talented, which is attested to by his many beautiful specimens. Betty and Joe had some wonderful years together with the Black Powder Club too, he was a true opponent in the shooting competition. Joe was fun loving, a good sport, and game for anything. He loved duck hunting, saying, “The Marsh was like a church.” He also loved working on his place, traveling, his dogs and anything outdoors.
Joe served in the Army and as a second lieutenant in the 1113th Transportation Company in the California Army National Guard. During that time he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal. After his stint in the National Guard Joe attended and graduated from the University of California at Davis earning his degree in Fish Biology. This led to a long and rewarding career in the Forest Service where he made many lifelong friends.
Joe is survived by his wife, Betty Zustak and step-children Lou, Lori, and Athena, granddaughters Jessie Ann and Reina, brothers Mike and his wife Isabel, Fred and wife Christine, George Zustak, and many numerous nieces and nephews. He will be missed by many.
There will be no memorial service at this time. As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be made to the charity of your choice.