In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, the family of four lived in Detroit, Michigan at 336 Goodwin. The enumerator spelled the family as “Zekely “. The parents were Hungarian emigrants; Alex arrived in 1913, then Mary in 1914. Their youngest son was Fred, who was born in Michigan. The father was a machinist in the auto industry.
The family was recorded in Detroit at 1994 Clements Street, in the 1930 census. The family name was spelled “Szkly”. Zekley’s father was a plumber. On the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) website, Zekley said:
McManus, ever the storyteller, used his 1952 Collier’s article to serve up his own embellishment on Zeke’s early years: “My assistant, Zeke Zekley…says he began to draw because of a picture in a Detroit paper. It showed a yacht riding anchor at the Saint Clair River and the caption described it as the yacht of ‘George McManus, the cartoonist.’ Zeke says he figured if cartoonists could own yachts like that, cartooning was the life for him. So he began to draw, imitating my style.” After recounting the chance encounter between Zeke and brother Charlie, McManus served up this capper: “[Charlie] brought Zeke to me and I hired him. “But I never owned a yacht.”
The California Death Index said his parents and brother passed away in Los Angeles. It’s not clear if the family had moved together or if Zekley went first and the family followed.
On February 5, 1942 his father passed away. Zekley enlisted in the army on May 6, 1943; he had a year of college and was married. On the NCS website, Zekley said, “…WWII; in army, but luckily stationed nearby—was able to work on B.U.F., as well as cartoons for the military—1944, now collaborator!…”
On the NCS website, Zekley said, “…created Dud Dudley for McNaught—it didn’t fly—later, Peachy Keen and Popsie. I still had Sponsored Comics (McDonalds—Squirrel’s Club (10 yrs.), U.S. Army’s P.S. magazine—others—produced animated TV spots in partnership with Friz Freleng—many awards—Hobbies: collecting fine art and golf!