When 51 year old Gabriel Wortman went on a killing spree in the province of Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19 disguised as a police officer and shooting or burning through arson 22 people before police finally shot him, one of his victims was a graduate of Morris Area High School. John Zahl graduated Morris in 1968. He and his wife of 35 years Elizabeth Joanne Thomas were killed when their house burned down in the arson attack. The couple had moved to Nova Scotia in 2017 to retire.
Zahl was a Vietnam veteran, serving in the Navy from 1969 to 1979. He later worked for Federal Express. He met his wife at college in North Dakota. He is listed as a financial contributor to maintain the Morris Area High School Class of 1968 web page. In a 2011 post on the Class of 68 site, Zahl wrote that he had lived all over the world, from Morocco to Scotland and married a Canadian woman. At the time, he wrote that it had been a long time since he’s been to Morris.
CTV Atlantic reported at the funeral that friend Rhonda McClellan gave a eulogy, saying of Zahl and his wife: “They helped people that other people wouldn’t help. They were an example of giving and love.”
In a statement provided to the Class of 1968, daughter Jennifer Zahl Bruland said “Our family is devastated by the loss of John and Joanne. They were loved by friends and family from Minnesota, Manitoba, New Mexico and Nova Scotia. We are stunned and struggling to process this senseless act that has affected so many families and friends. Please remember John and Joanne for the kind acts and the laughter and joy they shared with so many.” She asked the Class to plan for a memorial to be held following the ease of COVID restrictions.