Tuesday, May 14, 2024

At the end of a long and winding road…

Shirley Grace Yahnke passed away on May 13 at age 96. She was mother to me, my sister Carole and my brother James. Married to Ramon Yahnke for 52 years, she led a life of service and exuded love for all who came her way.

Shirley worked for the National School District for 23 years, all the while raising her children and supporting the hard work of her husband, Ray, who built a house for us in 1955, then went on to relocate a house and garage at the back of the property, bought and fixed up a trailer park and finally landed in Spring Valley in 1982, where she lived until her passing.

When Ray retired after working for San Diego Transit for 43 years, Shirley joined Ray in many cross-country adventures in trailers and motor homes, touring with life-long friends known since their school days, touching many of the 48 states and into Canada and Mexico. They maintained a little get-away trailer in Rosarito Beach, where they spent many happy weekends.

After Ray passed in 2007, I decided to return from living in Hawaii for 5 years to look after my dear mother and we remained housemates for the past 16 years. I was the recipient of 16 years of fine meals and intelligent conversations, plus many, many laughs along the way.

She was an avid, usually disappointed Padre fan, like so many others in San Diego, and followed the San Diego Chargers, until their untimely departure from America’s Finest City. She loved to tend to the back yard garden which surrounded the swimming pool area, constantly checking for pesky weeds that popped up unbidden. She would light up at the sight of a bouquet of flowers that I brought to her from time to time. She really, really loved receiving flowers or pruning them from the garden.

Her passion for knitting lasted for most of the last 42 years, as the little third bedroom in the SV house was transformed into a full-blown knitting room with two active machines, surrounded by spools of yarn of every color and all the tools and equipment to turn out socks, hats, scarves, and hundreds of knitted items, large and small. She knitted a small string of red yarn that she attached to the antenna of her little Ford Focus, so she could more easily see it in the parking lot when she went shopping. She continued to drive locally up to just a few months ago.

Her health care was supported by the fine doctors at Kaiser, Bonita and other associated departments within the system. She was the recipient of a knee transplant at 90 years, as well as a heart pacemaker 8 years ago, which was near the end of its battery life this year. Both procedures gave her a new life in terms of being able to drive her car and to carry on living her best life until this year. Even at 96 years of age, her health care nurses and doctors marveled at how young she appeared at her age, compared to the many patients that they see who are much younger, chronologically. My motorcycle friends and customers who came to visit commented on her youthful appearance, often asking if she was my wife. That became a running joke between mom and I.

She has always been upbeat and seldom complained about her arthritic pain, in both her hands and spine. We always cleaned the house on Tidy Friday and did laundry on Saturday mornings. She had an unerring ability to find the smallest spot of dirt on a multi-colored kitchen floor and would lean all the way to the floor with a paper towel to whisk away the offending spot.

Until the cost of the Union-Tribune newspaper subscription exceeded $100 recently, she read the newspaper daily for the last 42 years and was keenly aware of world politics and felt the suffering of so many people whose stories had made the news. On the other hand, she loved the Comic sections and we laughed heartily at the oddities of life and people’s life choices that made the human experience a rich tapestry that it has become. There were times when I said something clever that struck her funny-bone and she would laugh heartily and sometimes it was so prolonged that it triggered my laughter and we became a laughing duet. I had to rein it in towards the end, as her worsening heart and lung conditions caused her to have coughing fits, but sometimes she just indulged herself in the healing power of laughter, despite the risks of flaring up another fit of coughing.

After three visits to the Kaiser ER at Zion, it was apparent that there was no recovering from her declining heart failure and the fluid build-up in her lungs. Hospice care was initiated in late April, just a month after her 96th birthday. Sadly, she was not able to consciously receive the celebration of Mother’s Day, here in 2024, but we will continue to honor her memory and her life of service and love for the family and friends on that day and beyond.

It’s impossible to really sum up a person’s life and impact on their community and the world. She was a long-time member of the Lemon Grove Methodist Church, after her membership in the National City Methodist Church ended with the move to Spring Valley.

She leaves behind generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who all loved her dearly, as she did them.

Bill Silver


PS We can’t say enough good things about the hospice staff at Suncrest. Each and every one of them were kind, thoughtful, compassionate and concerned about all of our needs. They were very professional, but with an easy, family-like presence throughout the process. They were a god-send to her and the rest of the family.

In an ironic twist of fate, Mom’s BFF, Peggy, who knew her for the last 85+ years, passed away on May 8. That generation for both families has now come to an end. Thirteen seems to be the magic number for her.. born on March 13, died on May 13 at 4:13pm. Three generations of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren hold a lifetime of the best memories of this wonderful woman.

1 comment:

  1. A very nice tribute to your Mom. Condolences to your family Bill