Finishing a remarkable life’s journey on a long path home, John Yaeger passed away on Sunday, September 1, 2019, at the age of 100, with his daughters by his side.
Born into a Hungarian immigrant community on July 3, 1919, John was the son of Julius Yaeger Sr. and Mary Szathmary Yaeger.
His roots stayed with him his entire life, as he never passed up a stuffed cabbage or strudel, and came to life with gypsy music.
John’s life spanned many decades of world events and changes, beginning with the belief he was the product of his parents’ happy celebration of Armistice Day, the end of WWI. John’s remarkable life from this point on was a combination of hard work, luck-and-coincidences, a great intellect, and his heart of gold.
His very young life was in a tight-knit community during the time of the Great Depression.
Everyone, including the children, pitched in and worked. He loved to tell that he, at the age of 13, would get up before sunrise and ride his bike 20 miles to dig 50lb sacks of potatoes for 5 cents a bag. He then rode home at night, with crop rejects for the family dinner.
At another job held at 15, John was manually moving large spools of heavy wire at a factory that manufactured bridge cables. Hot, hard work near the forges, he was beleaguered by a cruel supervisor that hated John’s roots, and loathed the young boy. John was dispirited, feeling the factory was to be his lot in life. The foreman, a Scot, thought John to be very bright, and advised, “Get out of here, Johnny. This job will kill ye. Go get an education.”
And so Johnny went off to school. At barely 16, John started college. He went on to graduate from the following institutions: Temple University, then Georgetown Medical School, followed by the University of Pennsylvania, and finally, at Johns Hopkins, he completed his residency in radiology. He also, when he was in his 70s, attended Duke University and was certified in ultrasound, where he ranked second highest in a physics class, with classmates he described as “youngsters.”
John loved his profession with his whole heart. First, he was a physician with the Army Air Corps in Germany during WWII. Later, he worked as a radiologist and finally settled in Lexington, VA.
There he helped found the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital. Finally, the Cold War called him to West Virginia, where he was a radiologist at the Greenbrier Clinic and, simultaneously, a physician for the Bunker. Amazingly, through all the years as a doctor, John never missed a day of work. He loved his work and he loved people.
John’s interests were many: his family, art, gardening, mountain biking, music, his dogs, and golf, which was his passion. And John, a self-professed “political junkie” in his later years, never missed voting in an election his entire life.
John was married to the late Ann Breit, and is survived by three daughters, Joann Yaeger, of Portsmouth, VA, Mary Yaeger (Jim Rhodes) of Suffolk VA, and Charlotte Yaeger Hawley (Michael) of Richmond, VA. In addition, he is survived by his sister, Marie Yaeger Westenberger; his brother, Julius Yaeger Jr.; and many nieces and nephews.
There will be a celebration of John’s life at the St. Charles Borromeo Church in White Sulphur Springs, WV, on Saturday, October 5, 2019, at 2 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the local humane society in John’s memory, and he would tell you, no matter what your affiliation, do the civic duty and “Go vote!”
A family video in tribute to John may be viewed by searching Tribute to Dad-PatientiaVincit on youtube.com.
Information submitted by Wallace & Wallace Funeral Home.
Obituary originally published in the September 13, 2019, edition of The West Virginia Daily News.