Music 32

Sy Zabrocki

June 21, 1931 ~ January 9, 2024 (age 92) 92 Years Old

Sy Zabrocki Obituary

Sy Zabrocki passed away on Jan. 9, 2024, at Morningstar Senior Living. He was 92.

Sy was born on June 21, 1931, in Wibaux, the second child to Henry and Victoria (Watembach) Zabrocki. He attended school there until 1947 when the family moved to Glendive, where he graduated from Dawson County High School in 1949. While in high school, Sy was a linotype operator for the Dawson County (Ranger) Review newspaper. During the Korean War, he printed maps in Germany for a topographical unit in the U.S. Army.

After being discharged from the Army, Sy returned to work at the newspaper and, in 1954, he married JoAnn Layman in Glendive. The following year, the Billings Gazette offered him a job and Sy, JoAnn and daughter Connie moved to Billings, where they raised their three daughters: Connie, Deanna and Jan. As a young couple, they square-danced with the Star Allemanders.

In 1958, Sy learned to tune pianos and worked for Fred Orton Pianos & Organs, but went into business for himself soon after. For approximately 60 years, he kept the pianos of Billings and the surrounding areas in tune while rebuilding old pianos during the evenings. In 1976, Sy and JoAnn opened Zabrocki Pianos on Grand Avenue. Sy was an inventor and held several patents on machines for moving and restoring pianos to their original glory. Even in their late 70s, Sy and JoAnn could deliver a piano to a customer without help. He was a charter member of the Montana Piano Technician Guild for 60 years, serving as the first president 1967 to 1970, and retired from tuning in 2014.

Sy played the piano, accordion, violin and harmonica, and we enjoyed many family sing-alongs pumping an old player piano while Dad played along with his accordion. Even in his 80s, he kept up with technology, spending hours on his computer, reading and soaking up knowledge. Sy loved football and stayed healthy by walking every day, rain or shine, and enjoyed visiting with his coffee buddies. Sy and JoAnn moved to Morningstar Senior Living in 2018. They would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Jan. 16.

Sy is survived by his wife, JoAnn Layman Zabrocki; daughters Connie McCall of Billings, Deanna Enrich of Billings (Mark Beadle) and Jan Swenson (Scott Simpson) of Wellington, Ontario, Canada; grandchildren Julie Simanton (Joe) of Billings, Suzanne Wong (Dominic) of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, Bryce Turcotte of Billings, Cortney Hall (David) of Portland, Oregon, Eric Swenson (Cori) of Anchorage, Alaska, and Nicole Swenson (Carson Baughman) of Anchorage, Alaska; great-grandchildren Holly Wong, Lena Baughman Swenson, Torsten Sy Swenson and Sven Baughman Swenson, Elsie Swenson; and brother Larry Zabrocki (Dorothy) of Bismarck, North Dakota. He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings Joe Zabrocki, Leona Panasuk and Al Zabrocki.

Thank you to the kind and wonderful people at Morningstar Senior Living, and the compassionate staff at Stillwater Hospice, who were such experts in letting us know what our next steps were and carrying them out. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the hospice organization in Sy’s honor at Stillwater Hospice, 3737 Grand Ave., Billings, MT 59102.

Sy was a member of St. Patrick Co-Cathedral. There will be a family celebration of his life at a later date, and arrangements are under the care of Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary.

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