North High School Wall of Honor
Ralph Gerald Zarnow
Class of June, 1932
Research done by Rick Nehrling, Class of 1963, and Claradell Shedd, Class of 1953.
Ralph's parents were Abraham J. Zarnow and Regina Yersky Zarnow.
Text from obituary from Des Moines Register dated Friday, March 21, 1997:
Ralph G. Zarnow, who was known throughout Iowa as an orchestra leader and entertainment-industry promoter, died Thursday at Mercy Hospital Medical Center. He was 82.
Mr. Zarnow, who lived at 1181 Ninth Street, died of a heart ailment. Services will be at 1:00pm today at Beth El Jacob Synagogue, of which he was a member. Burial will be at Jewish Glendale Cemetery.
Mr. Zarnow, a lifelong Des Moines resident, was a musician and entertainer, an Army veteran of World War II, and a member of Za-Ga-Zig Shrine, Masonic Lodge, and Argonne American Legion Post.
After returning from the Army, he opened the Ralph Zarnow Entertainment Agency, where he became legendary for his ability to book bands, ventriloquists, or any form of entertainment a customer would request. He produced the Shrine Circus at Veterans Memorial Auditorium for decades and played the grandstand at the Iowa State Fair for several years.
He also ran the Ralph Zarnow Orchestra, which played places such as the Kit Kat Club, the Gay Paree, and the Belvedere.
"He was Mr. Entertainment around town for years. Everyone knew him, " said Dan Hartzer, who met Mr. Zarnow 35 years ago when he began playing the trumpet in the Zarnow orchestra.
Hartzer remembered the photos of Bob Hope, Liberace, John Davidson, and even Sonny and Cher lining Mr. Zarnow's office. They were just a few of the many celebrities Mr. Zarnow had worked with over the years.
"Their agent would call Ralph and say, "We're coming to town and we need a back-up band." "Just about anybody who was anybody knew him. He was the number one agent, " Hartzer said.
Shirley Kever was the singer with Mr. Zarnow's orchestra for so long that she could tell by the look on his face what the next song would be. She remembered him as a boss and a friend.
"I don't think anyone could ever have a better boss than I had," she said. "Ralph could almost pick his musicians. Everyone wanted to work for him. He was a great guy. He's gonna be missed by an awful lot of people."
A sister, Sylvia Zarnow of Des Moines, survives.
Arrangements are being handled by Dunn's Funeral Home. Memorial contributions may be made to his synagogue or to the North High School Band Department.
Ralph Gerald Zarnow
Year x Rank x Status
June, 1932 x x x Graduated from North High, Des Moines, IA
x x Student x Drake
x US Army x One evening, Ralph was playing his usual gig at Babe's on Sixth Avenue. Upon completion of the gig, Babe approached Ralph with a letter from the President and the Draft Board. "Your services are requested... " Babe Bisignano and Ralph proceeded to Fort Des Moines, and Ralph was in the Army!
1945 x x x 84th Army Ground Forces Band; Fort Bliss; El Paso, TX
date x Retired x Discharge. Where?
date x Civilian x Des Moines, IA
March 20, 1997 x Deceased x Buried Jewish Glendale Cemetery, Des Moines, IA
Above: 1995 listing
Zarnow Entertainment & Orchestra Service;
Des Moines
Photo at left: Dagwell Orchestera
second from left, Dale Crowell;
third from left, Ralph Zarnow;
fifth from left, Roy Ramsay
When? 1945; El Paso, TX When?
84th Army Ground Forces Band; 1945; El Paso, TX  (click)
Jewish Glendale Cemetery, Des Moines, IA
Ralph Gerald Zarnow
Sergeant; Technician 4th Grade
United States Army
US Army Seal

84th Antiaircraft Artillery

Sergeant; Technician 4th Grade
Caricature; Fort Bliss; 01/45
Caricature; Fort Bliss, TX
January, 1945

Field Artillery
(1) Information was obtained from the Records on Military Personnel Who Died, were Missing in Action, or Prisoners of War as a result of the Vietnam War. This document can be found online at the National Archives and Records Administration at

(2) Information was obtained from the virtual wall that can be found online at

(3) The comprehensive list of names from North High's 1893-2018 graduation classes are from Claradell Shedd's North Des Moines High School website. The names of North High School graduates can be found online at: Ralph Gerald Zarnow's 1932 class page is:
Died: March 20, 1997.
Music: "Wind Beneath My Wings"
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