Obituary: Paula Alexandra Zurcher

Paula Alexandra


November 27, 1928 – August 27, 2021

Paula Alexandra Zurcher, age 92, passed away peacefully in the presence of her family on August 27, 2021 in her home in Colorado. Paula was born on November 27, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois to Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke. She grew up in Chicago and on their farm in Sandwich, IL and later in Larkspur, CO on Perry Park Ranch. During a flu outbreak they spent a year on their ranch where she and her sister, Nina rode a draft horse together to the one-room schoolhouse they attended.

Paula’s primary years were spent at The Girls Latin School in Chicago followed by four years of rigorous study and military drills at the Foxcroft School in Virginia. She excelled in the equestrian program and her years at Foxcroft instilled a life-long devotion to academic research and discipline. In 1948, she attended the University of Chicago where she obtained a degree in Philosophy. Her graduate work began at American University in Washington, DC where her father, Walter, and her uncle, Paul Nitze, hoped she would pursue a diplomatic career. She met and married fellow student Allen McCrory Pargellis. Their marriage produced two sons Andrew Nason Pargellis and Christopher Allen Pargellis. Paula and her two boys moved back to Chicago after her divorce.

She then began graduate studies in Chemistry at the University of Chicago. While working as a research chemist Paula married Victor Kinsley Zurcher in 1958. They moved to Northern California bringing Victor’s son, Victor Morton Zurcher and her two sons, Andy and Chris, where they began raising a family that grew with the births of Antonia and Ariane Zurcher. Their shared love of dogs, horses, gardening, art, music and travel led them on numerous trips and cultural adventures.

Paula was invited to join the Atherton and later Woodside Garden Clubs, where she examined and wrote about the genus, Salvia, using her experiences in research, writing and gardening. Another passion was horses, which led her to join the Los Altos Hunt Club and take dressage and jumping lessons. Her curiosity in world’s religions resulted in her teaching comparative religion courses for over 30 years. Paula received an award from her students for her decades of teaching Bible study classes. She attended both an Episcopalian Church and a Synagogue for many of those years. In her later years she pursued Genealogy and translated the family letters from German Script, covering nearly 200 years of personal history and emigration from Germany to Texas to Chicago and Colorado. Using this source material she wrote several non-published books which she gave to her family.

In Aspen, Paula added to her parents’ legacy by endowing The Fellows Program at the Aspen Institute. She was an avid pianist and her musical interests were fulfilled each summer by the Aspen Music Festival. While living in Pioneer Park house, she was awakened at 5:30 in the morning by Albert Schweitzer playing on the downstairs piano. At 92 she was still caring for and walking the dogs, feeding carrots to the horses, translating her family letters, corresponding with her beloved family and every morning making her bed as she was taught at Foxcroft.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Aspen Center For Environmental Studies.

A memorial is planned for spring of 2022 in Colorado. Further information will follow.