Robert Yates was my late mother’s first cousin. Mom’s mother was Gert; Gert’s brother was Ernie Yates, who married Charlotte Berman. They had four children: Raymond, born November 17, 1937, which I only know because it’s 10 years to the day after my mom; Frances, who was born January 1940; Donald, who was born in 1943; and Robert, the baby of the family, born in 1946.
They lived in Binghamton, with Ernie working as a truck driver, even though he was a college-educated man because that was what was available to him. But when Ernie died suddenly in 1954, the family moved to St. Albans, an enclave in Queens, New York City, in this house that looked like a mansion to me, it was so big compared with our modest dwelling.
Our family went down to NYC at least twice a year, and Charlotte and her brood came up to Binghamton. Since Robert was only seven years older than I, I felt more a natural kinship with him than his older siblings.
My father arranged the flowers for Robert’s wedding to a woman named Audrey, and possibly other Yates weddings. Robert and Audrey had a son, Aaron, who you can see below on my sister Leslie’s lap, as Robert looks on. Unfortunately, Aaron was murdered on the streets of New York City when he was 18, the details of which I’ve never been privy to.
I do know that Robert became very active in coaching youth athletics and generally being involved in the community. His nephews and nieces in particular really looked up to him. As one niece said, “He was a second, or even only, father to a lot of kids who are now better men because of his influence.”
After I moved to Albany, I’d only get a chance to visit them on special occasions, such as Aunt Charlotte’s 80th and 88th birthday parties. I last saw Robert, and his brother Donald, at Thanksgiving 2013, swapping memories.
Robert had been on dialysis for several weeks, so his passing on February 5 was not unexpected. And “he is now free from the pain and suffering that he had been living with for some time.” Still…