Donald “Don” A. Yeater passed away on September 9, 2021, at the age of 91 in St. George, Utah due to complications following back surgery the week prior. Don had lived an incredibly full life, and up until a few short weeks prior to his passing had been completely independent, even driving himself to and from California to visit family.
One might think that living for almost 92 years, Don would have been ready to depart this earth. And while there were times that he expressed his desire to go be with his wife of 30 years, Betty, who preceded him by five years, he really wanted to move to San Diego to get away from the sweltering St. George summers, be closer to his family, and be able to finish building his latest model airplane, a seven-foot 1/4-scale wooden-framed model of his own design. And his children wanted that too. But the Lord had different plans for Don, and even bigger adventures to come than the full life he had already been nearing completion of in this plane.
Don had a positive impact on everyone he met, with bright eyes, the most amazing memory of everything he’d ever done, and an oratory gift to captivate (rather than bore) one with his stories, and a witty, good-natured sense of humor. He always wanted to do the right thing and use his many talents to help others. He was meticulous with details and organization, but humble when it came to things he did not know. His sharp mind worked well with his passion for building and designing, and it can be truthfully said that he never met a tool he didn’t like.
While Don was proud of his accomplishments, he was proudest of his two children. He loved calling his first-born, Kathy, “Dr. Bianco”, as she had earned her Ph.D. in epidemiology, was a university professor, and a practicing PA....and his adopted son Rick, whom he raised from three weeks old and inspired Rick to raise four children of his own with three from his wife’s first marriage. Just as Rick was Don’s son, all of Rick’s children are his own. Don was proud to help Rick graduate from USC on a Navy ROTC scholarship after one father-son talk that turned a would-be conscientious objector into a US Navy officer, just as Don had faithfully and patriotically served as an officer.
Don came from humble beginnings, growing up during the Great Depression in St. Joe, Missouri, the youngest of three boys raised by a loving, sacrificial mother whom he would call “a saint”. From the beginning, Don had a fascination for airplanes, and after the family relocated to Oakland, California he worked hard to get his private pilot’s license in his teens and then became a commercial airline pilot by his early twenties. He would fly commercially for almost 40 years, accumulating over 35,000 flight hours. He was a captain for Continental Airlines based out of Los Angeles, and flew DC-3, DC-4, DC-6, DC-7, B707, B727, B707-320, B747.
Don met his first wife, June, at the airport where he learned to fly, June being a private pilot herself. They raised Kathy, moving between Northern California and Texas, and even a short leave from Continental to fly for Japan Airlines before settling in Thousand Oaks, California. Rick came along and soon after Kathy moved out to college then got married, then the family moved to Rancho Santa Rosa, an unincorporated area between Thousand Oaks and Camarillo, where Don developed a 25-acre property with a view of the ocean on a clear day and built a 5,000 square foot English Tudor estate, as well as planting 800 avocado trees and raising livestock, what he called his “Gentleman’s Ranch”.
Don was later remarried to Betty Shaw and after retiring, they lived in Louisville, Kentucky, and Sarasota, Florida, eventually settling in St. George, Utah. Betty and Don were active in the LDS church and while in St. George built a beautiful log cabin on three acres in the mountains near Duck Creek.
In addition to being a pilot, Don had joined the Army preemptively during the Korean Conflict to avoid the draft and was one of 32 of 140 in his OCS class to graduate as an Army officer. His ship arrived in Korea the day the conflict ended, and it went without saying that the North Koreans had heard Don was coming. Even though Don had already been a commercial airline pilot, the Army put in him in the anti-aircraft artillery…what Don would call the epitome of “Army Intelligence”. While stationed in Korea he even ran into his old high school pal, Clint Eastwood, whom he used to ride around with in Clint’s car back in Oakland.
Don had an independent and entrepreneurial spirit, and had started, owned, and operated several businesses. He had also studied aeronautical engineering for a while early on, but eventually devoted his time to flying instead of designing. However, Don’s desire and keen aptitude for learning never stopped throughout his life, to the point he was hired by Los Angeles Airport to repair jet engines used to start planes, firing them up at the ranch on a clear summer day, wowing Rick with the thundering sound. He never stopped dreaming up and designing new plane designs, like the model he was building.
With a creative mind, Don was also a writer, constantly thinking up ideas and writing short stories. He had always been interested in time travel and was a history buff, with WWI aviation interesting him since he was a child. So, during retirement he wrote and published the romance time-travel novel Another Time, Another Place, which called upon much of his aviation and history knowledge and was secretly peppered with names from his own life.
Don is survived by his two children, daughter Kathy and son-in-law Domenic, their three children Dominique, Matthew, and Michael, and son Rick and daughter-in-law Kim, and their four children Liam, Austin, Ashlee, and Sarah. Godspeed Dad, and may your adventures, journeys, and discoveries continue! We love you and believe we will be reunited!!
Funeral service to remember Don will be held on Friday, October 8, 2021 at 11:30am at the Morningside Stake Center located at 881 S. River Road, St. George, Utah 84790. A visitation will be from 10:30-11:15am at the same location.
Interment will be in the Larkin Sunset Gardens in Sandy, Utah on Saturday, October 9. 2021
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