This is a post of filled with sadness. The title, I hope; in my poor scholarship, refers to a song for a person of distinction, honor, grace; moral dignity, virtue and beauty. We are saddened at the death of our dear and true friend, John Yackley. John is not someone whom most people would know but we are privileged to hold that distinction.
He was an intensely private man yet, he was my oldest friend: the best man at our wedding; a husband; a teacher; an actor; a scholar; a warrior. The ordering of those two final attributes is deliberate. John was a lifelong scholar. To him, learning was like breathing – an essential of life. While he was a gifted linguist and his talents and interests ranged widely, his true passion was film. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of film but he was never a snob about it. He delighted as much in Bergman’s work as he did the Police Academy series. He introduced us to so many fascinating topics and reveled in exploring the passions that we hold.
John was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was truly gentle but with an iron core of rectitude, honor, and morality that was unwavering. He dedicated his life to serving our nation in ways that tore at his soul. Yet, being steadfast and committed to the fostering the best of what it means to be an American, he served on; working, arguing, and recruiting, despite the cost to himself. Throughout those long years he was bolstered by the unwavering support of his equally amazing wife, Liz.
This was an incredibly complex man. In juxtaposition to his serious side, John had a wicked sense of humor. He loved the Marx brothers. On more than one occasion we were politely requested to leave a restaurant after treating the other diners to a complete reenactment of the famous ‘contract scene’ from Night at the Opera.
The police, I am sure, didn’t know whether to ignore us, commit us, or arrest us as we drove through the streets of Tucson in an open topped Volkswagen Thing, wearing 1880s vintage American Army helmets singing ‘Springtime for Hitler’ from Mel Brooks’ The Producers. (The Zero Mostel/ Gene Wilder version)
Upon returning home from a hitch in the Army, John shared one of his high jinks with us. I said he was a gifted linguist. Well, trained as a Pershing missile technician, he found himself stationed at a base in what was then West Germany, mere kilometers from the frontier. In the event of a war, it would be seized by Spetsnaz troops almost immediately so, John went through and (incorrectly) labeled all the missile parts in both Russian and English. When asked what, “… the hell this is all about Yackley?” by his major, he simply replied that it was his effort to ‘confound and confuse the enemy’.
Even as he lay dying, through the pain he made a joke. He promised to send me a postcard from the great beyond to add to the collection of letters and postcards he sent from around the world while he was among us. As I said, a wicked sense of humor.
Just so you know John, I kept every one of them and treasure them still.
In closing, we just want you to know that, among all the chaos and bickering of our modern world, there are people like John Yackley. Steadfast, true, intelligent, interesting, inspiring, remarkable beacons of sanity in a world that seems to be going mad.
John, we know we said it a number of times while you were with us but we’ll say it again. We love you. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. Thank you for bringing Liz into our lives. We are richer, better, more fulfilled for knowing you. You will be missed, tremendously.