Eric Alan Zapalac was born on June 16, 1978, in Bellville, Texas, to Randy Edward and Judy Fay Greak Zapalac.
He grew up in Sealy, Texas, where he lived his entire life. As a child, he was always on the go, full of energy; so much so, that his mother joked that the only way to get him to sit still would be to break his legs. He played football for Coach T.J. Mills as a member of the Sealy Tigers' State Championship teams in both 1994 and 1995. He graduated from Sealy High School in 1996.
As a young man, Eric was daring and adventurous. He even did a little bull riding. It was this courageous and restless approach to life that lead Eric to join the Sealy Fire Department not long after graduating from high school, where he would serve and protect the citizens of Sealy and Austin County for 21 years. He earned the designation of licensed paramedic and worked in that capacity for Austin County EMS. He graduated from Texas A&M TEEX Professional Firefighter Training Academy in 1999. Through hard work and dedication, Eric rose through the SFD officer ranks--serving as Captain, Assistant Chief, and was the current Fire Chief of the Sealy Fire Department. Eric also served as a previous President of the Board of the Fire Department.
One of his biggest challenges and accomplishments was developing and overseeing the conversion of Sealy's all-volunteer department to a paid department in 2009. He also oversaw the construction of Sealy's new fire station which opened in 2012--constructed 63 years after the original one built in 1949. He had a vision for what the department should be and had the endurance to make it happen. He was proud of a recent acquisition and conversion of a used tactical vehicle into a multi-purpose booster truck that also serves in high-water rescues as well as and the well-negotiated purchase of a used ladder truck--the first for Sealy. He had a true passion for being a firefighter and serving the public.
In 2001, Eric joined the Houston Fire Department, where he has now served over 16 dedicated years. He was currently an Engineer Operator assigned to Hazmat Unit 2 at Houston Fire Department Station 22. On October 19, 2002, Eric married the love of his life, Kelly McKimmy, in the All Around Cowboy Church in Sealy. He loved spending time with his family, which includes his wife Kelly, their three children, Nicholas, Lucas, and Leah; along with two dogs and currently four chickens. He loved his pets and all animals. Eric spent many hours with his family enjoying the outdoors going hunting, fishing, and camping. He was an avid fisherman and loved sharing this passion with his kids.
One of his favorite fishing spots was on Lake Conroe, where he was known to have often caught 50 - 60 fish per trip. Eric loved hunting--especially bow hunting. He believed in passing down these skills to his children. He and his family took many camping trips and he even rigged up an air conditioner window unit inside their tent for a little added comfort. It seemed like there was nothing he could not fix. He most likely saved the citizens of Austin County hundreds of thousands of dollars by fixing, not replacing, many things around the fire station. He was adamant that if something needed to be fixed, you could learn how on YouTube. He was well-known for negotiating for the best price on purchases big and small.
Most would agree, Eric was the hardest working man they have ever known and he was always doing for others. For many years, he worked four jobs so that Kelly could stay at home to raise their children. He was a perfectionist who loved the fire department and avoided the spotlight--always content simply with pride in his workmanship and the joy of mentoring those served under his leadership. He was dedicated to his family first and then to the fire department; although half-jokingly Kelly may say it was the other way around.
To his wife and children, he was a great husband and wonderful dad. To everyone who knew him--he was a giver. Eric Alan Zapalac passed away on Monday, November 20, 2017 at the age of 39 years. He is survived by his wife of 16 years, Kelly Zapalac; his children, Nicholas, Lucas, and Leah Zapalac of Sealy; his parents, Randy & Judy Zapalac of Sealy; brother, Edward Zapalac of Sealy; his father-in-law & mother-in-law, Rick & Susie McKimmy of Katy; his sister-in-law & brother-in-law, Missy & Shane Theriot of Sealy; niece, Samantha McKimmy Kalinec of Sealy; and his nephew, T.J. Theriot of Sealy. He was preceded in death by his sister, Crystal Zapalac; and by his grandparents, Dan & Mary Greak and Clint McCollister. The family will receive friends from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Monday, November 27, 2017, at Second Baptist Church - West Campus, located at 19449 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas, 77094. A Memorial Service with full Fire Department honors immediately follows at 11:00 a.m., officiated by Deacon Robert Kent, District Chief (Ret.), Arson Division, Houston Fire Department. Memorial Remembrances may be made in thanksgiving for Eric to "Firefighters Helping Firefighters" http://firehelpingfire.org/, a non-profit organization that was important to Eric.