Jean Cardin Ziaja " Sponsored obituary | TheUnion.com
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Jean Cardin Ziaja " Sponsored obituary

October 30, 1946 – May 4, 2007

Jean Cardin Ziaja, the extroverted redhead who peeled the paint off the back walls of many theaters with her wonderful contralto voice, died suddenly at her San Francisco home on Friday, May 4, 2007. Jean was born October 30, 1946, in Los Angeles, to Ruth and Ben Cardin.

The family moved to Grass Valley, California, when Jean was young. She attended Nevada Union High School and Sacramento State, earning a B.A. in French and spending a year abroad at the University of Aix-Marseille.



While singing in a university chorus, Jean met a baritone even taller than she, and married John Ziaja in 1970. Both Jean and John sang with San Francisco’s Lamplighters Music Theatre for many years.

After a few choruses and small roles, Jean took over the Gilbert & Sullivan contralto roles, performing all of them at least once. Jean will be particularly remembered for her definitive portrayals of Katisha (The Mikado), the Fairy Queen (Iolanthe), the Duchess of Plaza-Toro (The Gondoliers) and Lady Jane (Patience). She delighted in creating outrageous original characters in Lamplighters Galas, including the Statue of Liberty, Helen de Troy, and the indescribable Desma Normand.




She worked for many years for Bank of America, and later for the law firm of Hancock, Rothert & Bunshoft. In recent years, she had been enjoying retirement with her beloved husband John, keeping busy managing her late mother’s properties in Grass Valley and tending the roses in her own back yard.

Jean was an elegant dresser who favored pastels, scarves, sequins and beautiful jewelry. Her laugh was infectious, and her parties were legendary. She was a big sister to dozens of young singers and the irreplaceable center of the social life of all who knew her. A memorial celebration of her life is being planned. She is survived by her husband John and untold numbers of bereaved friends and surrogate family.


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