Daniel “Big Z” Robert Zirkle, age 51, resident of 26407 Miller Station Road, Cambridge Springs, PA, died Saturday, October 22, 2011 at UPMC Hamot in Erie, PA following a short illness. Born in Meadville, PA, on April 4, 1960, Dan was a son of the late Robert Zirkle and Elaine Mott Zirkle. Dan lived all of his life in the Cambridge area.

Zirkle, Daniel Dan graduated from the Race Street School for Exceptional Children (Blue Barn) in Meadville in 1981 and then became an assembler for Vallonia Industries also in Meadville. He was one of the first participants in the Special Olympics which began in Crawford County in 1974. Over the course of the years Dan earned more than 100 medals and ribbons in track, swimming, and field events. He participated in many local, sectional, and State events and looked forward to traveling throughout our State competing. In 2008 while in Philadelphia, he was awarded a special trophy for his sportsmanship which led to his induction into the Special Olympic Hall of Fame. He also attended a Special Olympic summer camp held in Allentown, PA on several occasions.

Other events which Dan took very seriously were fishing and deer hunting with his hunting skills earning him the name “Dead Eye Dan”. In addition, he enjoyed leather working, shooting pool, mowing lawns, bowling, and dancing.

“Big Z” had an outgoing personality and made friends very easily. An unselfish person, he would go to great lengths to help anyone. Full of fun, he quickly made people around him feel at ease.

Dan had a special girl friend from Linesville – Kathy Wheeler, whom he cared for very much. Family members include two sisters – Delores Davis and her husband, Ron of Cambridge Springs; Donna Davis and her husband, Jim of Meadville; three brothers – Dave Zirkle of Tennessee; Dale Zirkle of Cambridge Springs; and Darryl Zirkle and his wife, Becky of Cambridge Springs. Also many aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews survive.

Friends may call at the Van Matre Family Funeral Home in Cambridge Springs on Monday from 2-4 and 7-9 and are invited to attend funeral services there on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. Reverend James Callender, pastor of the First Church of God in Cambridge Springs, will officiate. Interment will be in Millers Station Cemetery. Memorial gifts may be made to ARC of Meadville, 222 Chestnut Street, Meadville, PA 16335 or to Crawford County Special Olympics, _P.O. Box 273, Meadville, PA.