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Walter "Yukon" YATES


1924 - 2015 Obituary Condolences
Walter "Yukon" YATES Obituary
YATES, Walter "Yukon"
Walter "Yukon" Yates, age 90, passed away March 2, 2015. Walter was born on October 19, 1924 as the third son of eight children to the late Andrew Jesse and Mae Elizabeth Yates. He spent his boyhood in the Ozark Mountains atop a mountain called Burny Mountain, now fittingly known as Yates Mountain - in northwest Arkansas's Madison County. He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers Bobby Gene, Chester, and Harris Yates; and sisters Dorothy Dunn and Catherine McMahan. Walter is survived by his wife of 37 years, Tracy Yates; his first wife and mother of his children, Edith Williams; his children, Sharolyn Yates of Houston, Susan McLaughlin and husband, Bob McLaughlin of Pflugerville, and Jay Yates and fiancé, Nancy Grob, of Rogue River, Oregon; and stepson, Greg Malone and wife, Lisa, of Round Rock, Texas; brothers Donald and wife, Lois Yates of Corpus Christi; sister, Georgeanne Jones of San Antonio; and,19 grand and great grandchildren.

Having lived a life inspired by Jack London, Walter often referred to himself as a modern-day Mr. London with a "master's degree in life." Growing up in the midst of the Great Depression, he found inspiration amidst his mountain adventures and explorations. Along with his older brothers, he provided sustenance for his family by hunting and fishing. As a wise and savvy six-year-old, Walter roamed the mountain and its valleys with a single shot .22 caliber rifle, often alone for miles in the wilderness, building fires and roasting his catch on sticks.

Being an avid reader, Walter discovered London and found himself influenced by his tales of sourdough prospecting in Alaska - and vowed to live a life of similar nature, as an outdoorsman, adventurer, and inspiration to all who met him. He mastered such living. His motto was "you gotta wanna do it." He thought if someone really wanted to achieve something they could, they could-by truly putting their mind to it. He put his mind to the skies, the forest, the mountains, gold pans, vast and wild terrain seen by few, and eventually to paper.

At the young age of 10, Walter worked as a Western Union delivery boy when his family relocated to Corpus Christi. He spent his nights wading around the bay with a lantern gigging for flounder. At 17, he dropped out of school to join the Marine Corps on November 29, 1941 - just a week before Pearl Harbor. One month later, he was aboard the U.S. Lurline, en route to the South Pacific. He finished his boot camp training on the island of Samoa, and special trained for jungle combat before landing on the island of Guadalcanal. Walter had his 18th birthday on the Island. Not long after, he was severely wounded by a mortar shell. Two of his buddies were killed, and Walter was sent to New Zealand to recuperate. He later returned to the States and spent nearly a year in a naval hospital in Corpus Christi, and was discharged as entirely disabled in June 1945. Because he regretted his young decision to leave school, Walter took his discharge as an opportunity to further his education, earning his aforementioned "degree in life."

Walter never allowed his disability to interfere with living, something he strived to achieve with a meticulous dedication to life. For a while, he operated a flooring business, later delved into real estate, and eventually became a land developer which he did for the remainder of his life. Walter's most-loved accomplishment was the design of Breakaway Park-a fly-in subdivision with a runway literally in the homeowners' backyards, many of whom are pilots. Flying was, perhaps, his biggest passion after all. Walter loved to fly - and did so all over the world. He spent an entire year exploring Alaskan ghost towns and abandoned gold mines in his helicopter. In fact, he nearly lost his life when he had a tail rotor failure and crashed in a remote area of British Columbia, surviving for 14 days in the snow with a broken back and only cranberries as nourishment before finally being rescued. His survival tactics acquired in his childhood saved his life. In more than 50 years of flying, that near fatal crash was his only brush with death.

Walter enjoyed doing many things. He had a natural talent for building things including handcrafting things, several aircraft, two helicopters, a two-seater airplane, and restoring old cars. His most recent project was rebuilding an MG sports car. He had the good fortune of having two of his best friends, Mark Lazar and Leroy Blair, help him with many of his projects. The projects were also labors of love for them.

Walter recently published a book called Breakaway-about his life, journeys, and adventures. Because of his authorship, he was often asked to speak at meetings including those held by the Outdoor Writers Association and The Woods and Waters Club. Walter was admired by many, and inspired all who knew his stories. Breakaway Park hosts events throughout the year, and as a prosperous and well-established neighborhood today, the admiration its residents have for the man and mind behind the pilot's dream can be heard in every, "How are you doing, Mr. Yates?"
At a picnic in Breakaway Park, it was Mr. Yates who said: "Look around. Do you see all these happy people? All of this happened because one person had a dream." And that's how Walter lived - making dreams come true - both his and those around him.

Memorial services will be at 2:00 pm, Friday, March 6, 2015, at Beck Funeral Home, Cedar Park, Texas, with military honors.
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Mar. 5 to Mar. 6, 2015
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