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Photo of Derek James Zarda.

Derek James Zarda February 27, 1984 – January 30, 2015

Memorial Services:
April 18, 2015
11:30 AM to 2:00 PM
Independent Living Center San Francisco
825 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Derek James Zarda, 30, of Shawnee, KS, San Francisco, CA, and most recently of New Taipei, Taiwan, passed away January 30, 2015, in Taiwan, from injuries suffered from a fall at his home. His Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 pm, Saturday, March 21, 2015, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 5601 W. 62nd St., Mission, KS 66202 (corner of Shawnee Mission Parkway and Nall Ave). Reception following at the Sylvester Powell, Jr. Community Center, 6200 Martway, Mission, KS 66202.

Derek was born February 27, 1984, in Merriam, Kansas, the son of Kathy and Dennis (DJ) Zarda. He was raised in Shawnee, Kansas, graduated from Shawnee Mission Northwest High School in 2002, and then went on to graduate from the University of Kansas in 2009 with 2 degrees: BS in Journalism and BA in Film Studies and Theater. While in high school Derek was diagnosed with a chronic disease that flared up from time to time throughout his life, however, it did not hinder him from realizing his many goals and dreams. Derek was an Eagle Scout and was proud to be a warrior in the Tribe of Mic-0-Say. He excelled at soccer and enjoyed following his teams in the World Cup.

As a student at KU, Derek and his friend Zach, formed AbleHawks, a student organization to raise awareness of and to advocate for students with both physical and non-physical disabilities. In 2007, Derek was instrumental in getting KU to obtain a new fleet of ADA compliant campus buses, so that disabled students could use bus transportation together with the rest of the student body.

He was active in the KU Asian American Student Union and was elected President of the group at a time when he was the only non- Asian member. In 2006 Derek was awarded a scholarship from KU to travel to Japan for 3 weeks with the Kansas Asia Scholars. Prior to leaving for Japan, he studied the Japanese language using books and DVD's and used his new language skills while in Japan. In 2010, Derek moved to San Francisco so that he could be close to his long time sweetheart, Sydney Chang, who he had met and dated while she attended KU, however, she had moved to San Francisco to finish her college degrees.

Shortly after his arrival, he became employed with a non-profit association, Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco (ILRCSF), as the Assistive Technology Educator. Derek's passion was making sure people had the technology they needed to lead independent lives. Jessie Lorenz, the Executive Director at ILRCSF and good friend of Derek's, said that "He had the rare ability to connect with people of all ages, and that although Derek was only 30 years old, he spent the time he had on this earth making a difference for others. He touched my life and the lives of many and he will always be remembered with great warmth and fondness by all who knew him". Derek also served as a council member and co-chairman of the San Francisco Mayor's Office on Disability.

In November, 2014, Derek moved to Taipei, Taiwan, to live with and marry his sweetheart, Sydney of 11 years. Within 2 weeks he was working as an English teacher at the Taipei Language Institute.

Derek is survived by his parents, Dennis and Kathy Zarda; sister Heidi Zarda; and brother Christopher Zarda and wife Ashley; nephew Neale Zarda; niece Rowan Zarda; and the love of his life, Sydney Chang; aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, and all who knew him. Derek was predeceased by his grandparents, George and Estelle Gunderson and Norbert and Lucy Zarda; and his cousins Gara Zarda and Donald Zarda.

In lieu of flowers, donations and/or fond memories and condolences may be submitted to Derek Zarda Memorial Fund, www.gofundme.com/DerekZarda. Or can be sent to 13415 West 57th Street, Shawnee, KS 66216.