Mildred "Micki" Joyce Koob was born in Independence, Iowa on July 18, 1940. She was the second child of Elsie Merle Woodward Koob and Harold Frederick Koob, and sister to Kathryn, Mary Jane (Enquist), Vivian (Homeyer), Anabeth (Voigts) and Emogene (Zuck.) The Koob girls were the fifth generation of their family to be raised on a farm in Jubilee, just south of Jesup, Iowa. Micki Koob could not wait to get off the farm and left home after graduating from Jesup High School in 1958. Koob attended the Ray-Vogue School of Design in Chicago, Illinois for two years, followed by another two years at Brunswick, also in Chicago. During her training in Chicago, Koob served as costume designer for the Miami Playhouse and the Philadelphia Playhouse in the Park. Around 1962, Koob went to New York where she worked for Ray Simpson and other major costume shops.
As a girl on the Iowa farm, Koob used to listen to the radio while milking the cows. On one occasion she heard Lowell Thomas talk about Nepal, and from then on she dreamed of going to Nepal. In 1973, Koob had saved enough money to realize her dream and trekked to the base camp on Mt. Everest. Koob's real passion for traveling was fulfilled after she married Robert (Bob) Zeller in November 1976. Bob Zeller retired soon after their marriage and they traveled the world, being among the first to visit Bhutan when it opened up to outsiders. Both Micki and Bob Zeller were licensed scuba divers, and many of their trips included diving. The Zellers divorced in 1994.
Micki Zeller was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. She did not permit her cancer to interfere with her love of traveling and underwent chemotherapy treatments all over the world before succumbing to the disease on April 12, 2000.
The Mildred "Micki" Zeller papers date from 1946 to 2000 and measure 11 linear feet. The papers are arranged in seven series: Biography, Correspondence, Essays, Iran Hostage Crisis, Travel, Photographs and Artifacts.
The Biography series contains papers regarding Zeller's education, her work in costume design, her involvement with the Friends of New Hampshire Music Festival, and her marriage to Robert Zeller. Educational papers include a play Zeller wrote based on "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. There are also report cards, school programs, diplomas and certificates. Papers regarding Zeller's career in costume design include letters she wrote while still in high school concerning career opportunities and schools. The bulk of the series consists of Zeller's diaries, which span the years 1954 to 2000.
The Correspondence series includes a brief correspondence Zeller had with Princess Irene of the Netherlands in 1952, along with letters Zeller received while in high school from friend Norman Hall. There are also letters and cards Zeller received from Bob Zeller during their courtship and marriage. The bulk of the Correspondence series is arranged chronologically and includes letters, cards and emails from family and friends. In addition, there are numerous faxes sent to and received from friends and to arrange many of her travels.
The Essaysseries consists of multiple drafts of essays Zeller wrote in her later life. Many of the compositions were written when Zeller was taking a creative writing course. These drafts include comments and suggestions from her classmates. Most of Zeller's essays pertain to her traveling, although there are also writings regarding her experiences with cancer. At least one article, on her adventures diving with white sharks, was published.
The Iran Hostage Crisis series pertains to Zeller's older sister, Kathryn Koob, one of the fifty-two Americans taken hostage by Iranian dissidents in 1979. The series includes correspondence with family and friends, an interview with Bishop Gumbleton following his 1979 Christmas visit with the hostages, an interview with Koob family members, and a calendar Zeller kept from her sister's capture in 1979 to the hostages' release in 1981. This series also contains an audiocassette of a speech Kathryn Koob gave at Nazareth Lutheran Church following her release. There are also magazine and newspaper articles regarding Koob's release, and photographs of Koob's homecoming.
The bulk of the Travel series consists of the many diaries Zeller kept over three decades while traveling around the globe. Spanning 1967 to 1999, the travel diaries contain both practical and personal information. [See Appendix for list of countries covered in travel diaries.] The Travel series also contains twenty years of diving logbooks kept by Micki and Bob Zeller, along with notes they both took while taking a sports diving course in 1975. Several of the journeys Zeller took are represented in the sub-series Trips. Correspondence, itineraries, and representative tourist materials may be found in these chronologically organized folders that reflect Zeller's original files. Of particular interest is the 1973 Mt. Everest trip, followed by twenty-five years of reunions often hosted by Micki and Bob Zeller. The 1989 trip to Cannes, France, includes news regarding the death of Zeller's mother. Three videocassettes may also be found in the Travel series. The two 1993 videos were taken primarily underwater and show the Zellers diving. The 1992 video is from Indonesia and includes underwater scenes, and native Indonesian dancing, chanting and boating.
The Photographs series includes loose photographs, albums and slides. There are loose photographs of Micki Zeller, Bob Zeller and various family members and friends. There are also loose photographs from Zeller's travels, some of which are neither identified nor dated. Photograph albums include Zeller's 1976 wedding album, a 1973 album depicting her Mt. Everest trek, and an album containing examples of her costume designing skills. The bulk of the Photographs series consists of the slides Zeller took during her thirty years of traveling. The slides have been arranged chronologically. Capital letters have been assigned to each trip, with roman numerals representing the original slide show carousels maintained by Zeller. Many of the original slide shows had guides. The guides may be found in Box 26. Copies of the guides may be found in Box 12-15 with Zeller's corresponding travel diaries.
The Scrapbooks series consists of six scrapbooks. Two represent Zeller's earlier years: School, 1954-1956, and the Lutheran League Conference, 1955. Travel scrapbooks cover Bhutan and India, Nova Scotia, Iran and Montana. There is also a general scrapbook of miscellaneous undated materials.
The Artifacts series includes Zeller's 4-H and Cattle Congress ribbons from high school, her valedictorian award, various diving patches and ice skating tags, and items she brought back from her travels, including Tibetan prayer flags, an Australia Railroad wall hanging and various menus.
Alternate Extent Statement: 2 audiocassettes [AC961-AC962]
3 videocassettes [V308-V310]
Photographs in boxes 24-31
Slides in boxes S2-S9
Access: The papers are open for research, with the exception of Box 34 which is CLOSED.
Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.
Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 739) were donated by Kathryn Koob in 2001.
Preferred Citation: Mildred "Micki" Zeller papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.