Munitions blast killed 2 friends--family man, fun-loving single


ABERDEEN -- One was a settled, happily married family man who could bake a mean apple pie. The other was a handsome, single gent -- a bit of a rogue -- who nonetheless possessed a generous soul.

John Zielinski, 41, and Norman L. Barcase, 40, were co-workers and friends who died Friday at Aberdeen Proving Ground when an explosion ripped through a munitions processing bay. Yesterday, their families struggled with the knowledge that they were gone forever.

"Nintendo!" Mr. Zielinski's entire family shouted when asked what it was he enjoyed doing when he wasn't working as a munitions handler. "And gardening," his youngest daughter, Jeniffer, 12, said.

"Baking apple pies and cookies," his oldest daughter Kathleen, 17, added while their mother, Taeko, looked on.

Close friends comforted the family yesterday at their home in Aberdeen, near the military installation where Mr. Zielinski had worked for more than two years.

Mr. Zielinski spent 20 years in the Army, got out and then went to work at the proving ground. He was born and raised in Passaic, N.J., where he was one of eight children.

According to family history, he was a "bit of a rebel" as a youngster, Jeniffer said. But he apparently welcomed the stable lifestyle he had with his wife and children. His wife recalled one special gift her husband gave her last year -- a trip back home to her native Japan, where she hadn't been in a decade, to visit her sick mother.

Norman Barcase also was remembered as a wonderful person, with a wicked sense of humor and an exuberant joy for life.

His family and fiancee sat around his mother's kitchen table in Edgewood and described a man who in the words of his mother, Goldie Barcase, "was in love with life" -- a handsome man with silver streaks in his hair who was always very popular with the opposite sex.

Mr. Barcase was born in Westernport, in Allegany County, but moved with his family to Edgewood when he was five. He attended Edgewood High School, had married and divorced twice and had worked at the military facility for more than 20 years.

Besides his mother, he leaves two daughters, Joann Marie, 18 and Cindy Lee, 16, a brother, Joseph, two nephews and his fiance, Lana Yamrus.

"He was the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back," said Sadie Barcase, his sister-in-law.

"But he would make you beg for it first," said Joann Marie, recalling her father's sense of humor.

Ms. Yamrus will not forget the time, a few years ago, when they were driving along Old Philadelphia Road and saw a car flip over.

"That car had overturned and he jumped out and pulled out a woman and two kids," she said. "He was given an award for that act of bravery."

Ms. Yamrus works at Aberdeen Proving Ground and was there when the explosion occurred. She said Mr. Barcase and Mr. Zielinski were friends as well as co-workers.

The accident occurred at 11 a.m. in one of several processing bays at the East Ammunition Assembly Plant, one of two primary processing plants at the military facility.

The men, both civilians, were attempting to load powder propellant into a 105mm anti-tank shell that already contained propellant. The shell exploded.

John G. Yaquiant, a proving ground spokesman, said yesterday that an investigative team from the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., arrived Friday night and was gathering evidence to take back to Alabama.

"We expect a report out before the end of the month," Mr. Yaquiant said.

A memorial service for Mr. Zielinski will be held at St. George's Episcopal Church in Perryman at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

A funeral service for Mr. Barcase is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the McComas funeral establishment in Abingdon.

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