20 years later: Fatal disaster remains impossible to forget
The Kansas City Star
Out for the evening with a friend, Mark D. Williams sauntered up to a Hyatt Regency hotel bar to order a scotch and water. Around him, a spacious lobby buzzed with more than 1,500 other revelers.
Only a year old, the Hyatt already was a popular Kansas City nightspot, especially on Fridays, when an orchestra played for 1940s-era tea dance contests.
Suddenly, out of the cacophony of music and conversation, Williams heard something eerie above him. Bolts snapping. Something ripping from its moorings.
Move! Williams instinctively thought.
But it was too late.
At 7:05 p.m. on July 17, 1981, two 120-foot-long walkways tore loose from their suspension rods, dumping 65 tons of concrete, metal, glass — and dance spectators — onto hundreds of people below.
On the hotel floor, carnage. Dozens of victims pinned, dying beneath the debris. Bodies cut in half. Broken necks, broken backs, severed limbs and shattered lives.
That tragic night, 111 persons died, including 18 pairs of husbands and wives. Of the 200 injured, three died weeks or months later, pushing the death toll to 114.
A stunned Kansas City wept.
The following Monday there were 25 funerals. On Tuesday, 37 more. And on and on.
Twenty years later, the Hyatt skywalk tragedy remains the nation’s worst structural failure disaster.
It triggered multimillion-dollar lawsuits, taught engineering schools a terrible lesson about design flaws and marked a beginning point nationally for treating the psychological scars of rescue workers.
Boarded up during repairs, the Hyatt reopened 75 days later — but without skywalks and without a plaque or other memorial marking what had happened.
Today, those who witnessed that horrific night say it changed their lives forever. They can never forget it.
And neither will Kansas City.
Cyndi Paulson, a 20-year-old college student from Liberty, landed a 1981 summer job as a hostess at the Hyatt’s Terrace Restaurant, an open-air dining area overlooking the lobby.
Below her that Friday, dance contestants with numbers pinned to their backs twirled to the tune “Satin Doll.” Other guests chatted in small groups, relaxed in cushy chairs or waited in lines at the lobby bar.
Feeling bored, Paulson looked past the fourth-floor skywalk, through the hotel’s front windows, to check the time on the bank clock across the street.
Her ears stopped registering sound as her eyes watched an unbelievable thing. The fourth-floor skywalk fell. With people standing on it. Directly below, a crowded second-floor skywalk plunged, too.
Pancaking heavily to the floor, the skywalks spewed a gust of wind and huge dust cloud. Then, a sickening silence.
Paulson gasped. Where was her father? He might have been crossing the busy lobby to exit the Hyatt’s front doors.
People started calling out names of missing loved ones. One woman, who had watched her husband vanish, sobbed and turned away. Someone comforted a trapped man. Water from a broken fourth-floor pipe gushed into the lobby.
Paulson and a hotel manager rushed restaurant patrons out a back door through the kitchen. Then Paulson turned back toward the lobby.
Somehow, she had to find her dad.
Forty-two blocks south, emergency physician Joseph Waeckerle had spent an hour after work training for rugby season by running 11 flights of stairs at Baptist Medical Center.
As he returned to the emergency room dripping sweat, he got a phone call from dispatchers: “We need you at the Hyatt.”
A hospital radio network sent warnings of possible mass casualties to emergency rooms across the metropolitan area. The Hyatt stood just blocks from four major hospitals, including two that overlooked the hotel from Hospital Hill.
This night, four emergency rooms wouldn’t be enough. This night, 17 would be needed.
Waeckerle, then 35, threw on surgical scrubs, grabbed his stethoscope and dashed to his car.
Because Mark Williams had spread his feet to flee when he heard the bolts popping, the falling skywalks had shoved him down into the splits — a position he had stretched into regularly while training to run hurdles for Rockhurst High School.
The force ripped both of his legs from their sockets. His left leg flew across his torso, with his foot ending up near his right ear. His nose was broken, his scalp lacerated and his back twisted.
Trapped face down in an 18-inch-high pocket between heavy I-beams, he felt water flowing past his head. Williams now feared he might drown.
How come no one has lifted this stuff off me? he wondered.
An injured girl prayed nearby. Then a man moaned: “This is killing me. I’m going to die.”
Williams worried that the man would frighten the girl.
“You need to buck up and handle this,” scolded Williams, then 34. “The rest of us are trying to survive.”
About 12 minutes after the collapse, Waeckerle arrived. He began checking victims who had been carried outside the hotel.
Someone grabbed him.
“The disaster is inside,” a paramedic said. “You need to get inside.”
Arms and legs protruded from the debris. People cried; others screamed. Concrete dust painted victims’ faces into mannequins. The lobby was dim. Emergency workers had cut the power to prevent fires.
Waeckerle thought: This is pretty bad.
Someone begged him to help a partially trapped woman. One glance told Waeckerle that no one could help. How could he explain that to a frantic loved one?
Waeckerle had just finished a term as director of Kansas City’s emergency medical system. That experience made him the lobby triage doctor. He set to work.
One man’s legs and right pelvis were pinned. He was given pain medication and fluids, but without amputation he wouldn’t survive. At first, the man refused. After about an hour, he relented.
Waeckerle summoned a surgeon, who freed the man with a chain saw.
Later, the man died.
While searching for her father, Paulson saw hurt people everywhere.
“Help me, please,” one woman pleaded.
The woman’s husband had a broken back and crushed leg. The woman, who was less seriously injured, feared they would be separated. Paulson comforted her until rescuers could move them.
As Paulson wandered among victims outside, her mother suddenly appeared.
“How did you get here?” a surprised Paulson asked.
“Your father called,” her mother replied.
Paulson stared in disbelief. Was it true? He was OK?
Her father had left the Hyatt before the skywalks collapsed. He had heard about it on the radio. Relief washed over Paulson.
She told her mother to go home. She wanted to stay and help.
The Kansas City Fire Department had a plan, called Operation Bulldozer, for procuring heavy-construction equipment in emergencies. But in this case, bulldozers were useless.
Deputy Fire Chief Arnett Williams, the incident commander, once had moonlighted for Belger Cartage Service, which operated large construction cranes. Belger was only blocks away.
“Call Belger,” he ordered.
Soon other workers appeared with a forklift and jackhammers. Firefighters manned concrete-cutting saws. Generators powered lights. Someone shut off the ruptured water pipe.
Rescuers removed most victims within the first hour, rushing them to emergency rooms by ambulance, helicopter, buses, taxis and private cars.
Freeing the others, however, took time. And caution.
“My concern was, am I going to have to do something over here that might hurt someone over there?” recalled Williams, then a 20-year department veteran.
Not knowing frustrated him.
For three days, a nagging sense of death had haunted the Rev. Jim Flanagan, a priest at St. Francis Seraph Church in the East Bottoms. He prayed, asking God what it meant. He got no answer.
Then a colleague called about the Hyatt disaster and suggested he go. Flanagan realized that God had been preparing him for the tremendous destruction he was about to witness.
Even so, the scene — resembling a battlefield — shocked him.
“God, give me something to strengthen me,” Flanagan prayed.
He moved between the dead and the living, attending each through the Catholic rite called the Anointing of the Sick.
Flanagan’s name was the same as the priest from the old movie “Boys Town.” That strangely humored one buried man, who had asked Flanagan his name.
“That’s a great trick,” the man said. “Here I am under all this steel, and you are saying lies to me.”
Stopping near another victim waiting to be rescued, Flanagan asked how he was doing.
“Well,” the man answered, “my Timex is still going.”
At times, Waeckerle took a deep breath and whistled as a signal for hundreds of rescuers to hush. As buried survivors called out their names, rescuers marked their locations.
About 2 a.m., seven hours after the collapse, rescuers pulled a boy, a man and a woman from a pocket beneath the rubble.
Mark Williams remained trapped in the darkness, waiting. His companions — the praying girl and injured man — had fallen silent long ago. Williams worried that doctors might have to amputate his leg.
By then, blocks away from the Hyatt, Kansas Citians were streaming into the Community Blood Center and rolling up their sleeves. At one point, the donor line stretched three blocks.
By 3 a.m., two Belger cranes smashed through the Hyatt’s lobby windows, showering glass onto the bloody floor. Operators lowered pulleys. As each skywalk section was raised a few feet, rescuers shined lights underneath looking for life.
Eventually, a rescuer heard Williams below an unraised slab.
“We’ve got a live one!” the rescuer yelled.
A jackhammer pounded through the concrete above Williams. As it bore nearer, its sharp tip brushed between Williams’ left arm and ribs. Then it knifed between his legs. Williams feared the next one would pierce his spine.
“You idiots!” he hollered. “Shut that jackhammer off!”
When the section lifted, cool air and light washed over Williams. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see the bodies.
It was now 4:30 a.m.
Waeckerle, drained after having been awake 24 hours, asked another doctor to oversee the final rescue. He stumbled wearily to his car, unaware that Williams — a friend he had run hurdles with at Rockhurst High — was that last person.
Later, cranes lifted the last slab of concrete.
Beneath it were 31 bodies.
In the days following the collapse, Waeckerle could not sleep, despite being exhausted.
Though proud of the medical community’s response, he dreaded discussing the victims’ incredible suffering. So for four months, he declined speaking engagements.
When he started giving seminars to emergency workers that November, the requests quickly multiplied. He became known as an expert. In April 1995, his advice was sought after the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.
Since the Hyatt catastrophe, Waeckerle has returned to the hotel once, for a benefit dinner. He didn’t enjoy it.
After helping victims at the hotel, Paulson drove home to Liberty and climbed into bed. She slept most of the summer. In the fall, her previously stellar grades sagged. She took a semester off to work, but that didn’t help. A doctor later diagnosed depression.
Now married, Cyndi Paulson Willerton sells real estate in Bend, Ore. She thinks little about the Hyatt, yet she can’t escape it totally.
“I get the heebie-jeebies on any kind of walkway structure that has air below me,” she said. “When I am on those, I walk very fast.”
Shortly after the collapse, Flanagan moved to Boston. Today he lives with other members of his missionary society in Texas. Though hundreds of miles from Kansas City, his thoughts often reside here.
“I really pray for all of them all the time,” Flanagan said. “Those who died and those who are still living. Those wounded and those hurting.”
Arnett Williams toiled 14 hours at the Hyatt disaster. For a long time, the memories bothered him — not individual faces, but the loss of life.
He left the Fire Department within five years. He thinks that subconsciously the Hyatt played a role in his decision. Today he is a minister.
He hasn’t been inside the Hyatt in more than 16 years.
The friend who had invited Mark Williams to the Hyatt died that night.
Williams spent two months hospitalized. His left leg turned black. It swelled so much doctors carved slits in it to ease the pressure. They considered amputation, but Williams resisted. Because his kidneys shut down, he endured dialysis for weeks.
Each day his father coerced at least one positive thing out of his doctors to help boost Williams’ spirits. That fall, friends carried Williams, an avid outdoorsman, a quarter mile so he could hunt ducks from a blind. They even sat him on the tailgate of a truck and flushed pheasants out of the fields toward him.
Through weeks of physical therapy he eventually moved from a wheelchair to a walker to crutches and then a cane. As nerves slowly regenerated, feeling returned to his leg. Walking independently again, though, took two years. His stride still is jerky, and his left foot doesn’t work quite right.
About 10 years ago, a friend invited Williams to a Chiefs banquet at the Hyatt. Inside the lobby, Williams felt drawn to the spot where he had been trapped for nearly 10 hours and nearly died.
He walked over and stood there. He hasn’t returned since.
“I’m not mad that this happened to me,” said Williams, now a 54-year-old appraiser who lives in Ray County. “I’m just sorry my parents had to go through this, wondering whether their son was going to live or die.”
The Hyatt experience changed him, he admits. He values his friends and family more. And each morning he wakes up appreciating life.
“We don’t know what we can accomplish, what we can withstand, until we are tested,” he said.
“The will to live is pretty strong.”
114 VICTIMS OF THE JULY 17, 1981, TRAGEDY
The Hyatt’s 114 fatalities included military veterans, teachers, lawyers, homemakers, secretaries, business owners - and one child, a fifth-grader who played sports and the guitar.
Connie Alcala, 32, founded the all-women’s Mariachi Estrella Band at her Topeka church. Four band members died.
John J. Alder, 74, of Fairway was senior partner in his law firm. His wife escaped injury.
Velma “Pat” Allen, 40, of Kansas City taught physical education at Palmer Junior High School in Independence.
Carol M. Andrews, 33, a Kansas City mother of two, was a receptionist.
Bonnie Tracy Wheeler Bartels, 39, and William F. Bartels III, 38, of Olathe were lifelong area residents. He was Spring Hill State Bank’s assistant vice president. She worked for Lang Laboratories Inc.
Robert G. Barton, 56, of Kansas City, North, was a Farmland Industries accountant.
Juanita P. Bedene, 60, of Overland Park taught at Santa Fe Trail Elementary School and enjoyed hiking, fishing and picking blackberries.
Robert C. Beneteau, 44, of Parkville, a Marine Corps veteran and avid golfer, was a Fuller Brush Co. vice president.
Calvin W. Berges, 57, and Florence S. Berges, 62, of Gladstone left behind two daughters. A World War II veteran, he worked in General Motors’ paint department. She was a Farmland Industries clerk.
John Bergman Jr., 30, of Shawnee was a lawyer. His mother, Pearl, also died.
Pearl L. Bergman, 58, of Lansing was a ward secretary for Munson Army Hospital at Fort Leavenworth.
Julia H. Boggess, 45, of Lenexa owned Courtney Jewelers in Mission and was past president of the Mission Mart Retailers Association.
J. Robert Bolton, 63, and Julia Slaughter Bolton, 52, of Chesterfield, Mo., were vacationing. He was a bank vice president. She was a job guidance counselor for the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Henry O. Botnen, 51, of Overland Park was an AT&T supervisor, a Boy Scout consultant and a Korean War veteran. His injured wife survived.
Louis Bottenberg, 66, of Kansas City had retired from the Kansas City School District’s audiovisual department. He played the mandolin and taught music and dance. His wife survived.
Jacqueline S. Brooks, 24, was celebrating a new sales job with Hilton Hotels.
Delores Carmona, 35, of Topeka was a Mariachi Estrella Band member.
Cathy Jean Carver, 32, of Mission taught at Fairfax Elementary School in Kansas City, Kan. She died Aug. 19, 1981, after 33 days in a coma.
Theodore Cast, 72, of Holden, Mo., was a World War II veteran who had retired from teaching high school industrial arts. His injured wife survived.
Gerald L. Coffey, 42, of Leavenworth took his youngest daughter, Pamela, 11, to the dance. Both died. He was a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and vice president of a Leavenworth title firm.
Pamela Coffey, 11, of Leavenworth, a fifth-grader at Xavier School, enjoyed Girl Scouts, sports and playing the guitar.
James S. “Sam” Cottingham, 46, of Kansas City, a former Independence city attorney, helped found that city’s Queen City Baseball League.
James E. Daugherty, 56, and Barbara L. Daugherty, 52, of Merriam were tea dance regulars. He was a General Services Administration mechanical engineer, a former Merriam civil defense director and a World War II veteran. She was a hospital volunteer. They had six children.
Judith M. Davis, 38, of Parkville was a teacher’s aide and volunteer at Union Chapel Elementary School. Her husband survived.
Richard V. DeKruyff, 56, of Kansas City was Southeast Junior High School’s vice principal, a World War II veteran and a big-band fan. His wife stayed home to baby-sit grandchildren.
Christine J. DePriest, 22, of Kearney was a University of Missouri-Kansas City law student.
Calvin Detrick Jr., 66, of Merriam was a World War II veteran and president of a company that made rubber rollers for the printing industry.
Clifton Dial, 80, lived 25 years in Kansas City before moving to Portland, Ore. A retired insurance salesman, he played saxophone, clarinet and violin in Shriners orchestras.
John T. “Jeff” Dixon, 64, of Warrensburg was a decorated World War II Navy pilot who became a paraplegic after a 1955 Olathe plane crash. The Hyatt’s final victim, he died Dec. 1, 1981.
Lois Lorene Jenkins Duncan, 62, of rural Excelsior Springs was a championship ballroom dancer who taught dance for decades.
Jeff Durham, 25, was a real estate agent and part-time Westport bartender.
Louis M. Farris, 42, of St. Joseph was a firefighter who had won dance contests in his hometown.
Carolyn Fiene, 48, of Gladstone was a TWA accountant who enjoyed square dancing.
Delores Galvan, 26, of Topeka was a Mariachi Estrella Band member and a civil engineering draftsman for the state of Kansas.
E.O. Gerster, 63, of Overland Park was a dentist who died two months after the collapse.
John J. Glaser, 58, of Kansas City was a former teacher who worked in investing and insurance.
Laurette Glover, 53, and Ray Glover, 54, of Merriam had attended multiple tea dances. He worked in music therapy. She taught at Milburn Junior High in the Shawnee Mission district.
Richard M. Goss Jr., 42, of Overland Park was president of Dick Goss & Associates Inc., an automobile supply firm in Mission.
Roger Grigsby was a Denny’s Restaurant manager in Kansas City.
Oscar F. Grim, 61, of Kansas City, North, a self-employed industrial salesman, enjoyed big-band music, especially “Satin Doll.” He pushed his wife away as the skywalks fell. She survived.
Helen Jean Gruening, 47, and William Gruening Jr., 48, of Prairie Village were active in American Field Service. He was vice president of Central Forest Products. She was a sales representative for Scholastic Magazine Inc. They had three children.
Joseph Gubar, 56, of Kansas City, a World War II veteran, was a salesman for Broadway Supply Co. His injured wife survived.
Virginia E. Hackett, 66, of Kansas City, North, retired in 1980 as a bank controller.
Paul I. Hansen, 51, of Mission developed Johnson County real estate for 30 years. He was a Korean War veteran.
Mary Hazelbeck, 56, of Overland Park, worked for the Internal Revenue Service. Her husband survived.
Romelia “Romey” Henson, 29, and Thomas F. Henson, 46, of Independence liked long walks in the country. He was a Farmland Industries traffic analyst. They had a 2-year-old son, plus five children from his previous marriage.
Stephen Hershman, 59, of Overland Park was a Russian immigrant who lived 45 years in the Kansas City area.
Doris M. Hill, 56, and Forest D. Hill, 58, of Lenexa liked big-band music. She was a registered nurse. A World War II veteran, he was Shawnee Mission Medical Center’s assistant director of material management.
Richard L. Houltberg, 53, of Overland Park, a management consultant and sports enthusiast, canceled an evening tennis match and instead went to the dance with his fiancee. She survived.
Carl Huntsucker Jr., 44, and Sondra Campbell Huntsucker, 39, of Raytown enjoyed the outdoors. He was a salesman and a military veteran. She was a Bendix Corp. computer programmer.
Eugene Jeter, 48, and Karen Jeter, 37, had been married two weeks. Both worked for Federated Insurance Cos. He was assistant manager of claims. She was the marketing manager.
Ima Jean Johnson, 50, of Kansas City was a Blue Cross and Blue Shield claims examiner.
Robert S. Jonas, 58, of Overland Park was a product promotion manager, a Jewish religion teacher and a World War II veteran. His wife survived.
Elizabeth D. Kolega, 58, of St. Joseph was a salesclerk who went to the Hyatt “out of curiosity,” her son said.
Julia A. Lamar, 33, of Shawnee had just won an award for her telephone sales work at Hallmark Cards Inc.
Mary E. Lane, 57, of Merriam enjoyed dancing and comedic acting. She was a Sturgess Equipment Co. secretary.
William V. Longmoor, 56, of Overland Park, a great-nephew of William Volker, was a Research Medical Center trustee, World War II veteran and jazz enthusiast. His wife survived.
Thomas Mahvi, 54, of Lenexa, an Iran native, was microbiology department chairman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.
Clara McClellan, 55, of Gladstone was a hospital nutrition assistant.
Charlotte McDowell, 37, of Kansas City left a St. Louis area teaching job to start a marketing business scheduling conventions, dances and parties.
Betty J. McLane, 57, and William L. McLane, 57, of Prairie Village were big-band fans. A World War II veteran, he was a life insurance underwriter. She was a church volunteer. They had four children.
Betty Louise Miller, 55, of St. Joseph, a steakhouse hostess, was enjoying her first Friday off in more than a year.
David J. Miller, 51, of Overland Park was a Southgate State Bank executive vice president. His injured wife survived.
Vernon D. Mitchell, 52, of Independence was co-owner of Plaza Hardware Inc., a Business Men’s Assurance Co. employee and a Korean War veteran. His injured wife survived.
Susan Moberg, 46, of Kansas City, Kan., was a psychic reader who worked for the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Kansas City.
Sheryl Lynn Morgan, 33, of St. Joseph taught at William Jewell College.
Marjorie Ann Morris, 47, of Overland Park taught at Santa Fe Trail Elementary School in the Shawnee Mission district.
Nick Noble, 31, a foreign-car salesman, had lived in Kansas City five years.
Louise O’Connor, 62, and Neal O’Connor, 64, of Mission loved to dance. She had been a secretary. A World War II veteran, he had retired as Traders Bank’s head cashier and controller.
Leona Omer, 69, of Greeley, Colo., was a widow who donated time to charities.
James M. Paolozzi, 39, of Kansas City directed network operations for Uninet Inc., a division of United Telecom Co. His wife survived.
Jerold M. Rau, 42, of Kansas City attended the dance with his wife and another couple, the Paolozzis. The men died; their wives survived. Rau was president of the Kansas City Dermatological Society.
Paul H. Rinehart, 46, of Overland Park was an automotive parts salesman for Dick Goss & Associates.
John M. Rodman, 78, of Kansas City was a retired automobile inspector for Fisher Body Co.
Ruby Mae Scanlon, 54, Overland Park was a Nettleton Home board member. Her husband survived.
Linda L. Scurlock, 36, of Topeka was a Mariachi Estrella Band member and a Santa Fe railroad claims processor.
Floyd Sholts, 69, and Violet Sholts, 62, of Kansas City, North, left one daughter. He was a retired postal clerk. She was a retired pharmacy technician.
William E. Sigler, 61, and Ruth T. Sigler, 57, of Kansas City, North, liked square dancing. He was a Kansas City Power & Light Co. technician. She was a North Kansas City School District food service worker. They had four children.
Helen A. Stark, 26, of Kansas City was an insurance underwriter for the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Co.
Edmund J. Stein III, 68, and Viola E. Stein, 65, of Overland Park. He sold advertising and was a World War II veteran. She sold Avon and enjoyed gardening. They had four children.
David Stover, 50, of Dubuque, Iowa, capped a two-week vacation with his wife by visiting Raymore friends. The friends died. Stover’s injured wife survived. He was a design engineer for John Deere & Co.
Kathryn Anne Sullivan, 45, of Blue Springs was a doctor’s receptionist attending her first tea dance.
Lucille M. Taylor, 69, of Kansas City was active in her church.
Anna F. Terry, 53, of Kansas City, Kan., was a widow and a Visiting Nurses Association secretary. Her husband had been killed in 1979 by robbery suspects he was chasing.
Robert F. Torrey, 53, and Mary E. Torrey, 49, of Roeland Park were known for generosity. He was a sales manager for Sealright Co. and a Korean War veteran. She worked in Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co.’s accounting department. They had two daughters.
John H. Tvedten Sr., 50, of Kansas City was a Kansas City Fire Department battalion chief whose son, John, later died fighting a Kansas City fire.
Lynn Vander Heyden, 22, of Shawnee was a senior at Rockhurst College. She was headed for Skies, the rotating restaurant atop the Hyatt.
Karyn T. Walsh, 41, of Kansas City was a PBX operator for William Volker & Co.
Lawrence Watson, 37, and Suzanne Watson, 34, of Parkville enjoyed music and nostalgia. He was vice president of American Dish Service. They had four children.
Linda K. Wharton, 26, of Lake Quivira was a manager for Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Edward A. Whitney, 60, and Joyce B. Whitney, 49, of Raymore. He was general manager of the Cox Hide Co. in Belton, a Heart of America Soccer Association state commissioner and a World War II veteran. She worked part time for Cox Hide and volunteered at a hospital. They had two children.
Ferna M. Wicker, 52, of Overland Park enjoyed church volunteer work. Her uninjured husband survived.
Kathleen O. Wilber, 55, of Leawood grew up on a Kansas farm and enjoyed riding horses. Her husband survived.
James E. Williams Jr., 42, of Oak Grove was a Social Security Administration investigator and an Oak Grove volunteer firefighter.
Paul W. Winett, 38, of Shawnee, was treasurer of Paragon Products Inc., and a military veteran.
Rudolph E. Zatezalo, 60, of Kansas City was a Missouri Democratic political figure, World War II veteran and former bank vice president. His wife survived.