George Arthur Yonge
June 17, 1933 – January 21, 2017
George Arthur Yonge passed away on January 21, 2017. George was a native Texan, born and raised in Abilene and residing in Austin since 1973. He was predeceased on January 6, 2017 by his loving wife of 21 years, Mary Margaret Shepherd Jenkins Yonge (Peggy). George was also preceded in death by two of his sons, Kelly DeLay Yonge in 1974 and George Barron Yonge in 1985.
George lived with intense passion. He obtained his Accounting degree in 1955, then a Masters and Doctorate in English in the early 70's, all from the University of Texas at Austin. He met and married his first wife, Kay DeLay Newman, while attending UT. They resided in Abilene, Texas where he served in the military at Dyess Air Force Base. They had four sons together. Although their marriage ended, they remained life-long friends. George was passionate about learning and educating. He taught English at Hardin-Simmons University and in the last two decades became fascinated with history and taught informal classes in that subject at UT and later at Longhorn Village. He was a very successful businessman, building homes in Abilene and Austin and buying and operating mini-storages, retail centers, and apartment complexes in Austin and Houston for over six decades.
George was an active philanthropist and community volunteer, including mentoring an underprivileged boy through Big Brothers of Austin, building trails for the Sierra Club, working on food and construction projects in Central America, and teaching Sunday School. His "Rainbow Ranch" project, 100 acres of land along Onion Creek in Buda, upon which he and friends themselves constructed a playing field, open-air kitchen, and overnight camping shelters, was part of a plan to serve the community. He later donated Rainbow Ranch to the YMCA and it is currently being transformed into "Camp Cypress", a camp for children and families. His Yonge Foundation, in conjunction with the YMCA, has provided tutoring and after-school programs for underprivileged children in Houston.
George was a great athlete. He twice went to the Texas state finals in the pole vault at Abilene High School. In his twenties and thirties he competed at a high level in handball. In his forties he completed the New Orleans marathon, and for the last few decades of his life he was a great racquetball player before recently graduating to swimming.
One of his greatest passions was boating, starting with waterskiing at a young age, then in later years sailing, navigation, and canoeing. During the 70's and 80's he won many races in his classification at the Lake Travis Yacht Club, including the Governor's Cup and Turnback Canyon. He then sailed up and down the East Coast in a Gulfstar 50. In 1991 he and his crew were reported missing and presumed dead after being caught in the middle of the famous Perfect Storm, but managed to stay afloat and survive. George also successfully navigated the seven most challenging falls in Texas in a canoe. George and Peggy together experienced many adventures traveling on cruises all over the world and In 2002 and 2003 they circumnavigated the Great Circle in their powerboat "Spray", a trip of more than 6,000 miles from Port Isabel through the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Intracoastal waterways, then west along the St. Lawrence River, Erie Canal, and Great Lakes before ultimately heading south back down the Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico. They chronicled the trip in a published book, the "Guide and Companion to the Great Circle Waterway" and made many presentations of that book.
George had many friends, and founded the Austin Singles Club in the 70's. He was known for his dry sense of humor.
George's family, original and extended, was a priority for him. He had a vision for his sons that he put tremendous energy into which was manifest in achievement and a broad range of exposure and experience. He is survived by two of his sons, Weston Shackelford Yonge and Jon Christian Yonge and wife Christine Peyton Yonge, his stepchildren Melissa Snipes and husband Kyle, Lance Jenkins and wife Cathy, along with eleven grandchildren, Christian Yonge, Ian Yonge, Jake Yonge, Ashland Hubbard, Nell Yonge, Kate Yonge, Wes Yonge, Megan Snipes, Molly Snipes, Mary Mason Snipes, and Gaius Jenkins, and his brother and sister, Jack Yonge Jr. and Patricia Fooshee and nieces Lois Brabec, Beth Eubank, and Sallie Newman.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be considered to YMCA Camp Cypress. George invested many years of his life in service at Rainbow Ranch, now known as Camp Cypress, as a place of healing and growth for people in our community. All donations to the project will help the YMCA fulfill George's vision for the land as a place to strengthen families through reconnection with the natural world. www.austinymca.org/campcypress-donate.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, February 7 at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, with a reception following the service.