The Zilliax Story


  If you have seen the new Reston School Playground sign in person or as featured in a previous Reston Recorder, you may have been curious about the Zilliax Family Trust. Sharon Simms, a teacher at the school did some digging to find out who the Zilliax family was. Research uncovered the story of a young teenager who left his hometown in the 1920’s and obviously kept a piece of Reston in his heart. He and his wife willed $3,000 to the Reston Public School District upon their deaths and what follows is what she has discovered about the Zilliax story. Any further information is most welcome to her at

article continues below

  John Theodore “Ted” Clayton Zilliax was born in Reston, Manitoba on April 1st, 1907 to parents Charles and Edith. Charles had been born in Listowel, Ontario in 1863. In 1889 he made his way to Chicago and married Edith Bowman eight years later. The couple had three daughters and tragically lost at least two more children in infancy. According to the census, Charles made a living as a sewing machine dealer in Chicago in 1900. At some point after this, the family made the move northwest to the Canadian prairie town of Reston, where Charles became a pump man for the C.P.R. His job was to keep the water tank along the railway track filled and ready for use by the steam engines of the day.

  Five short days before Christmas 1909, Charles Zilliax died of heart failure at age 47. His widow Edith would have been heartbroken, but needed to carry on for her children, Seven years later in the 1916 Canadian census, she can be found making a living as a washerwoman, living with daughters Ester (19) and Helen (12) along with 9-year-old Ted. Seventeen-year-old Eva (their third daughter) was likely working as hired help for another family. Ted would have attended Reston Public School in these years and one can only assume it must have been a positive experience for him. Perhaps a special connection was formed with a teacher or his classmates or he enjoyed his studies.

  The Zilliax family lived in “New England”, the part of Reston south of the railway tracks, on Lauderdale Street. The community was given this name in the early days of the town as the first inhabitants by name of Haines and Hollowell were recent emigrants from England. The Zilliax property was later bought by Rollie and Harriet Ludlum and this home is the red one still standing about a mile south of Reston.

  Online records indicate that in January of 1922, Ted left Canada with his family. The 1930 US census shows 23 year old Ted as a meter tester for the Electric Power Company in Chicago and living with mother and 2 sisters. By the 1940 US census Ted was a service man for Gas & Light Company, living with his sister Ester, who was a clerk in a drugstore along with their mother. In 1951, Edith Zilliax was returned to Reston to be buried in the Reston Cemetery along her husband, 41 years after his death.

  On August 9, 1958 Ted married Mary Beatrice Blasi. She was born in Chicago in 1916 youngest of 6 children of a mason.

  That is the last available information of Ted and Mary’s story until the end. Just 6 days after turning 97 years old, Ted died on April 7, 2004 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. His wife Mary died in the same city on January 27, 2006. The Zilliax Family Trust had been established and their wishes for their estate were carried out by their executor.

  The Reston School students of today are the recipients of their generosity with the money they left being used to improve play and learning space. We hope Ted and Mary Zilliax approve.

© Reston Recorder