Navigation Menu

David Zahrt

September 1937 –  June 29, 2020

Heidi, Jo, Karen and Christy have worked off the obituary that David wrote over 10 years ago.  We added the almost 10 years we have been in Carson City, NV.  There are many more stories we could tell, and some of you know ones we don’t remember. Our prime years in OE and ICA are our most cherished.  Here it is the obituary:


David was an itinerant who discovered in himself roots as deep as those of the Loess Hills prairie of Western Iowa, a place long his home.  He was a ‘work-in-progress’, striving at every moment to capture and build on the momentum his life had created. He also believed that “nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope” (Reinhold Niebuhr).


David Ernest Zahrt was born in Iowa City, in September 1937 to Luella S. Zahrt and Norman E. Zahrt. After Norman lost his life during World War II, Luella married Donald Reese, and she, with David and his sister Christy Zahrt, moved to Turin, Iowa to settle on the Reese family farm.  Sisters Jo and Karen were later born to Don and Luella.


At the University of Iowa, David met Linda Marken and they were married in Iowa City.  Jay and Heidi were born after the family moved to New Jersey where David enrolled in Drew University to earn a Masters of Divinity. He briefly served as a minister in a Methodist parish church in New Jersey.


The next chapter led David and Linda to Chicago, where they began 20 years of work with the Ecumenical Institute and the Institute of Cultural Affairs.  They devoted themselves to grass roots community development around the world. His favorite recollections were from Australia and Kenya.  Stories of his life are captured in his recently self-published memoir.


David and Linda returned to Iowa in 1985 while Jay and Heidi were in college, and eventually settled on the Reese family farm, where the Zahrts opened the Reese Homestead House as a Bed and Breakfast.  Many guests remember him playing the player piano and joining in a song.  David delighted in sharing the beauty of the Loess Hills. He diligently worked to restore native prairie on the Reese Homestead land.  His vision for the earth offered the opportunity to promote long-term land protection in the Hills with The Nature Conservancy and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.


After twenty years on the Homestead, clear that no one from the fifth generation would be returning, David and his sisters ensured the property would be preserved in perpetuity under an easement held by The Nature Conservancy.  The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation facilitated the subsequent sale of the Reese Homestead to Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Monona County Conservation Board.


In 2010 David and Linda moved to Carson City to be closer to family.  David continued to demonstrate his values in his beekeeping and in helping to convert their home to solar power and organic gardening.  David was an avid supporter of Muscle Powered, and rode his bicycle as primary transportation.  Riding a bicycle represented his self-reliance for travel, and a sense of freedom and fitness.  He took on many long-ride challenges. He became an ally of Capital Cities C.I.R.C.L.E.S., a non-profit committed to lifting people out of poverty.  Each Monday, he stood for peace with a small group in downtown Carson City. He acted on his passion for and concern about climate change when, in 2014, David joined the Great March for Climate Action from LA to Washington D.C.  Upon his return to Carson City, he started the local chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby to encourage legislation for climate action.


Throughout David’s life, he rejoiced in music.  In high school, he took voice lessons and learned to play string bass.  Singing with companions, and playing music in a band lifted his spirit.  He loved to perform for a crowd or join a parade.


He led an intentional life of service.  His soul was nourished by his family, the bounty of the earth, protecting the environment, helping people to reach their potential, and working toward world peace.  He was a leader by example, teaching and living the changes he wished to see in the world.


David made a peaceful passage into an unknown dimension on June 29, 2020 in Carson City, Nevada. He was preceded in death by his son, Jay Zahrt Freed.  He is survived by his wife Linda, his daughter Heidi Zahrt and son-in-law Yeshi Tenzin, grandson Sonam Zahrt-Tenzin, granddaughter Kinley Zahrt-Tenzin, daughter-in-law Trish Freed, and sisters Christy Tews, Jo Nelson, and Karen Bird and their families.




We remember when we were a newly assigned couple and went with David and Lin to open the Rochester House.  We didn’t have a location, and we slept upstairs in the Booher’s attic.  Rochester gets cold!  David climbed the stairs one morning to see why we hadn’t gotten up in time and saw the icicles dripping from the protruding nails in the unheated (and uninsulated) space – he bought the house the next week!


David was careful, precise, and passionate – an interesting combination.  He and Lin—and Heidi and Jay–shaped us in many ways in those early days – especially as we experienced ‘parenthood’ with the children and  youth in the house.  We had challenges but David’s calm demeanor and Lin’s confidence helped us through it.

          ~~  Bill and Carol Schlesinger



Many years ago Ron (Griffith) and I visited David and Lin at the Reese Homestead in the Loess Hills of Iowa. It was a magical stop on our journey. Lin spent time with JoAnn and Ron and I walked the land with David and listened to the story of the homestead. David played the piano and sang. Lin invited a friend over because she thought JoAnn would enjoy her company. It turned out JoAnn and Lin’s friend actually had a close connection. JoAnn loved it! We stayed overnight in the old farm house and were wonderfully cared for. It was a memorable visit.

          ~~. Beret Griffith

David was so at home on the land. I can still see him in my mind’s eye balancing on a hill with his arms out talking about preserving the land. I thought often of Jo (Nelson) while there and her connections to the “place”.

David and Linda took such special care for their land and gifted it for the prosperity of the earth to a non-profit organization. Click here for the story.



          ~~  Beret Griffith

Jim and I are so grateful to have known David as a deep friend. He and Lin visited us some years ago now, here in Sydney. A deep man of spirit and he is sorely missed by us and his beloved family circle. Grace and peace and with love from us, to you all who read this note of sadness.

          ~~  Isobel Bishop.


What a shock! It seems like only yesterday David and Linda were sitting in our living room on some journey they had embarked on having to do with a cause they were interested in. And not long before that attending Academy with them in the early 70’s. Just good people is all I can say.

          ~~  Linda and Milan Hamilton


We celebrate and give thanks for David’s completed life. Your families have made a great contribution to the spirit movement over the years. Wonderful memories include this one! The Barbershop Quartet here in Sydney several years ago. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your families. Grace and Peace,

          ~~  John and Robyn Hutchiinson



When we think of David Zahrt, four initial memories come to mind. First: We first met and worked with David and Lin in 1970 after Summer 70 when they came to Rochester to open and be priors of the religious house which ended up being a few blocks from where we lived in the Maplewood Neighborhood.  David and Lin provided excellent leadership for the congregations involved in the Local Church Experiment n which we were involved.  He was serious, single-minded, faithful, persistent and deliberate in his dedication to and carrying out  the mission of the House.  His attention was fully present with whomever he engaged in conversation and focused on what was possible.

Second:  David was a man of many gifts and talents.  Post-Order, he and Lin returned to Iowa to his Loess Hills family homestead (filled with wonderful family antiques–including a player piano) which, with blood, sweat and tears, they rejuvenated and hosted with great hospitality as a Bed and Breakfast where we stayed during a trip to Ft. Mandan.  David worked with the community on conservation efforts, and I believe (Jo or Lin correct me if this is incorrect) eventually turned part or all of this homestead into conservation land.

Third:  David’s weeks’ long bicycle trek with the 2015 cross country Climate March was incredible, overcoming obstacle after obstacle to meet the big demonstration in NYC and then on to Washington, DC the final destination.  He was one of the oldest, if not the oldest, trekker in the group.  We followed his daily blog and were amazed by his persistence, endurance, and determination to complete the trip, no matter what.

Fourth:  Even when his body was failing, he still kept up with list serve posts and wanted to make sure he received the Spong and later Progressive Spirituality and other articles, continuing his life-long journey of learning.

As friends and colleagues, we give thanks for and celebrate David’s unique and completed life and send our prayers to Lin, Heidi, and Jo and all his family.  May his legacy of living into possibility continue through those whose life he touched. Grace and peace.

          ~~  Carleton and Ellie Stock



I first got to know David and Lin very casually in Chicago, and was intrigued that David was helping plan an event with a team of musicians and other artists.  In 1996, I moved my children to Iowa, and had the pleasure of hosting Lin and David in my home with several other colleagues. I remember it was a great dinner conversation.

When my kids were young teens, I took them to the Reese Homestead B&B for a wonderful visit.  It was memorable to my little family that David & Lin were going dancing that evening, and left us alone in the B&B for our own evening of music, mainly centered on the player piano.  We had a grand time.  David took us on a nature hike tour of the grounds, showed us the historic property and his honeybees, and how he actually encouraged them to sting him on the hands for arthritis therapy!

Conversations with both Lin and David were healing to the soul.  From David, I learned that, in a well-tuned quartet, you can hear a 5th tone — interesting!  When David crossed the country with the environmental group, I got to host them for an educational program at the Library, found them a place to camp, and provided my home as a B&B, with a hot shower for David and a few other participants.  David put his whole self into every moment.  I miss him as I reflect on the many things I learned from him.

          ~~  Nancy Trask


We first met David and sometimes Lin in Schenectady, New York in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  He would come over from the Regional House in Rochester and address our lives, gently and thoughtfully helping to turn our RSI’s into a lifetime commitment.  When our son Dave spent his year abroad in Kenya we were grateful that the Zahrts helped make his time in the villages safe and meaningful. The family homestead wayside inn they ran in Iowa hosted us on several occasions and we hosted David in Michigan City, Indiana on his last cross country pilgrimage with the Climate Change March. The Presbyterian Church that we attended hosted many marchers and have continued to be active in Climate Change Awareness and Action.

David has been a sign of commitment and possibility in our lives. May he rest in peace and may his family find comfort and blessings as they remember his amazing life. Grace and Peace,

          ~~  Judy Lindblad