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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Fishing line sold at his store.

ZEHENTNER, Robert. (Dubuque, IA, Oct. 10, 1918-Dubuque, IA, Sept. 10, 2004). During WORLD WAR II, Zehentner, the brother of Joseph ZEHENTNER, served in North Africa and Italy. He was then stationed as a bombardier-navigator in the China Theater. The 10th Air Force, his bomber command, was called "The Earthquakers." (5) His military accomplishments led to him receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross. (1)

Zehentner opened ZEHENTNER'S SPORTING GOODS COMPANY in Dubuque on March 30,1946. By 1954 he had operating stores at 1572 Central Avenue and 920 Main Street. To help customers pay for some of the equipment, he established payment plans. He was named Voit Rubber Company's top midwestern dealer. (2) In 1953 Zehentner received second place as Retailer of the Year, an award presented by the Brand Names Foundation. The following year, the Foundation named him its Retailer of the Year in the sporting goods division, and Outdoor Life selected his company as the naation's #1 store. (3)

Despite his business commitment, Zehentner served as president of the Dubuque County Conservation Society and led a recruitment drive that boosted the membership from 187 to 1,100 members. Conservation work also found him overseeing the stocking of trout at Swiss Valley and proposing the clearing of LAKE PEOSTA. Elected president of the Dubuque County Conservation Society in 1953, Zehentner led efforts that resulted in the Julien DUBUQUE grave becoming a state park, establishment of a film library at the Board of Education, development of Swiss Valley as a recreation area, and the involvement of groups such as the BOY SCOUTS in conservation work. (4)

A well-known sports personality in Dubuque, Zehentner was owner of the King of Clubs baseball team in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He also sponsored teams in the City Major and Minor leagues. Zehentner played second base on the team that won the 1940 Major League championship, and he played in the 1941 state tournament. Zehentner supplied both the old Fourth Street Park and RAFFERTY FIELD with electric scoreboards. (5)

In 1975, thirty years after the completion of his military service, Zehentner was awarded the China War Memorial Medal. The order of Nationalist Chinese General Chiang Kai-shek to distribute such medals in 1945 had been lost in the hasty retreat of his government to Taiwan following the overthrow of the country by the communists led by Mao Tse-tung. The citation accompanying the medal from the ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) acknowledged the valiant effort such Americans as Zehentner had given to China during the war. (6)

In 1978 Zehentner was inducted into the DUBUQUE FAST PITCH HALL OF FAME.



1. Piper, Andy, "Zehentner Returned From War With Goal," Telegraph Herald, November 10, 2008, p. 66

2. Ibid.

3. Interview with Robert Zehentner, August, 1995

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Zehentner