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The Journal Gazette

Friday, June 23, 2017 5:10 pm

Friend's retirement brings Coats to Fort Wayne

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats slipped into Fort Wayne on Thursday to attend the retirement party of an old friend.

Coats and his wife, Marsha, and their security detail showed up at Parkview Field to see Frank Zirille, who is retiring as the director of Wellspring Interfaith Social Services.

"I was really surprised when he stopped in. I didn't expect that at all," Zirille said Friday.

Zirille said he and Coats each started working in Fort Wayne on April 10, 1972 – Zirille as the head of the local Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Coats as an attorney for Mutual Security Life Insurance. Coats volunteered to be a big brother, and Zirille matched him with a little brother.

"In fact, he called his little brother last night. He is still in contact with his little brother," who is about 50 years old and living in South Carolina, Zirille said.

Zirille said he and Coats have remained friends during Coats' service in the U.S. House in the 1980s, the Senate in the 1990s, as U.S. ambassador to Germany in the 2000s and for another stint in the Senate in the 2010s. They attended a Chicago Cubs playoff game together last year, and Zirille was Coats' guest when Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress in 2015.

"Not that our politics are necessarily aligned – they aren't," Zirille, 75, said with a chuckle about Coats, 74, a conservative Republican who took a job this year in the Trump administration as the nation's top spy. "But that doesn't matter. We don't talk politics too much. We talk family and personal things."

bfrancisco@jg.net