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Obituary: Daniel M. Zajeski Jr.

January 19, 1945 – December 17, 2022

Information provided by Smits Funeral Home

Daniel M. Zajeski Jr.

Daniel Myron Zajeski Jr., of South Holland, IL passed away on Saturday, December 17, 2022. Dan was born on January 29, 1945, in the Roseland/West Pullman neighborhood of Chicago, IL. His parents moved the family to South Holland, IL, in approximately 1957. His late parents were Daniel M. Zajeski Sr. and Jessie Zajeski (NEE:Hibma). Dan was the oldest of four children: Timothy (Nancy), Patricia Anania, and David (deceased).Dan Zajeski attended Assumption BVM elementary school, and then Mendel CHS (1959-1963) in Chicago.

At Mendel, he was inducted into the Honor Society, and played varsity baseball. One of his biggest thrills was playing on the 1963 Catholic League championship team at Comiskey Park. He then went on to play baseball with the minor league Markham Cardinals, once pitching a no-hitter.

After graduating high school in 1963, Dan Zajeski attended the Illinois Institute of Technology (IT) in Chicago, majoring in Psychology. While at IT, he joined the Air Force ROTC program, serving as an Air Force reservist for two years, and receiving an Expert Marksmanship ribbon, In 1968 he switched and enlisted into the US Army. Dan served on active duty for three years, from 1968 to 1971, as a Counterintelligence Special Agent and as a Spanish Linguist with US Army Intelligence. While on active duty, he served at various posts in the US, and spent two years at Fort Amador in the Panama Canal Zone. Among his military awards, Dan received the Army Commendation Medalfor exemplary service while on active duty during a time of war.

In 1967, Dan Zajeski married Andre Marie Heinemann, who had attended Mercy High School in Chicago, and whom he had dated for six years. After marrying, they bought a home in South Holland, IL, on Park Lane, and resided there until 1976. In 1976 they purchased a home on Thornwood Drive, also in South Holland. After Basic Military Training, Dan was accompanied by Andre at all of his assigned Army posts. Two children were subsequently born to the Zajeski’s, Crystal M. Zajeski (Kinder) and Daniel A. Zajeski, who, all together, presented Dan and Andre with four grandchildren: Tayler, Katelyn, Elle, and Brice.

Upon his Honorable Discharge from active duty in 1971, Dan joined the South Holland Police Department (SHPD) as a police officer recruit. While at the University of Illinois’ Police Training Academy, Dan received the Police Training Institute’s (PT) highest award, the Ervin H. Warren Award, as the top recruit in his class. Den went on to serve 31 years as a full time SHIPD police officer, rising through the ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant, Deputy Chief, and finally to Chief of Police. During his police career, he also served 15 years as a certified Police-Paramedic, rising to the position of Paramedic Coordinator. He retired from full time police service in 2002, but stayed on as a part-time Village Deputy Marshal until age 65, which was mandatory police officer retirement age.

Dan went back to college after joining the SHPD, and received an Associate Degree in Law Enforcement from Thornton Community College (now South Suburban College) in South Holland, then earned his Bachelor’s Degree in the Administration of Criminal Justice from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He subsequently received his Masters Degree in Corrections/Social Justice from Chicago State University. He was also a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy at Quantico, VA, the Defense Language Institute (Spanish), Presidio of Monterey, CA, and the US Army Counterintelligence Course, Ft. Holabird, MD.

In 1983, Dan rejoined the US Army as a reservist. He served as a Counterintelligence Special Agent, a Spanish Linguist, and as a Pirst Sergeant (E-8) — initially with the 138* Military Intelligence Battalion at ‘Hare AFB, Chicago, IL. He then finished up his military career as a Senior Military Intelligence Instructor and as a Basic Spanish soldier, he received various military awards, including Army Commendation and Army Achievement Medals. At the culmination of his distinguished 27-years of military service, MSG Zajeski was being awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. He was honorably retired from the US Army Reserve in 2005, at the mandatory retirement age of 60.

During Dan’s career as a police supervisor and Army reservist, he also taught Criminal Justice (CJS) and Basic Spanish courses at South Suburban College (SSC) in South Holland, as an Adjunct (part-time) Instructor, beginning in 1975. Shortly after his retirement as Chief of Police, he was hired as a full-time CIS Instructor at SSC. In 2010, he refired from full time teaching at SSC, and went back to Adjunct Instructor status at SSC until he retired completely.

Dan Zajeski enjoyed: running; working out; walking his dog; reading science fiction and military books; reading the daily newspapers; going to the movies with his wife; and spending time at his family’s vacation home in the Wisconsin Dells area.

Andre M. Zajeski, nee Heinemann, age 74, of South Holland, IL passed away on Thursday, March 10, 2022. Beloved wife of Daniel M. Zajeski. Loving mother of Crystal (Virgil) Kinder and Daniel (Jeanine) Zajeski. Cherished grandmother of Tayler, Katelyn, Elle, and Bryce. Andre was also very devoted to the many pets that she and Dan had throughout the years. She was loved by many and will be deeply missed.

Visitation with family and friends will be held on Thursday, January 5, 2023, from 3 p.m. until time of the funeral service at 8 p.m. at Smits Funeral Home, 649 E. 162nd Street, South Holland, IL. Interment, with military honors, will be held on Friday, January 6, 2023, at 12 noon at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery – Elwood, IL. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to South Suburban Humane Society (1103 West End Avenue, Chicago Heights, IL 60411) or Hinsdale Humane Society (21 Salt Creek Lane, Hinsdale, IL 60521).

For more information, please call 708-333-7000 or visit our online obituary and guestbook at

Smits Funeral Homes
Smits Funeral Homes
We are a family-owned business providing compassionate, professional end-of-life care. We handle all the details during a difficult time, so you can focus on the things that matter. We understand that each family is unique and has personal requests and traditions. Call our main office at 219-322-7300 to find out more about the customized services we can offer your family when the time comes.