Community leader Greg Yank is being remembered as a doer and a dreamer, making a difference in the quality of countless lives. And his impact will be lasting, say friends and colleagues.
The O’Fallon, region and worldwide Rotary communities are mourning the loss of Yank, 74, who died Jan. 5 at the Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis from complications related to COVID-19.
His motto was: “Giving back is the rent we pay for getting to live here.”
More than 40 years ago, he discovered that the Rotary Club International fulfilled his desire to live a life that mattered.
“It’s an avocation and a passion. I get a lot of energy and happiness to be a part of something bigger than myself,” he told the O’Fallon Progress after being elected to a two-year term as a Rotary International director in 2017. As one of three U.S. directors, he represented 63,000 Rotarians in 13 states.
He previously served as president of the O’Fallon Rotary Club and was a district governor twice, overseeing 48 clubs and 1,600 members in Southern Illinois.
Yank, a Milwaukee native, joined a local Rotary when he moved to Kirkwood, Missouri, in 1978. The international service organization brings together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian services and advance goodwill and peace around the world.
He spent 25 years in health care executive management and leadership, serving twice as a hospital CEO, and as president and CEO of a Catholic Health System.
Because of his work, he moved a lot but returned to the area in 1989, making his home in O’Fallon.
Yank was the O’Fallon club’s Rotarian of the Year in 1991-1992 and 1992-1993.
He not only enjoyed the fellowship, but said he liked supporting youth programs and scholarships, in addition to helping the economic and community development of the area.
“Our communities and our world are changed because of what we do. I’m so proud of what we are doing,” he told the Progress in 2017.
Rich Lunan, O’Fallon club president 2019-2020, said he valued Yank’s insight and his willingness to provide guidance.
“His life was about service, and by his actions, he was an inspiration and mentor to more people than he realized,” Lunan said.
“Greg’s passing is a huge loss for many of us who knew him. His life was dedicated to giving back to others, and he truly epitomized Rotary’s motto ‘Service Above Self.’ Greg was a gifted speaker, he had a wonderful sense of humor, and he was always happy and smiling. He went out of his way to make everyone in his presence feel special,” he said.
Retired Air Force Col. John “Woody” Almind, past president 2018-2019 of the O’Fallon Rotary Club, agreed Yank’s Rotary legacy will continue for many years to come.
“He believed that Rotary enabled him to live a life that would make a positive difference in our community and the world,” Almind said. “I personally will miss Greg’s friendship, leadership and mentorship. We will all try to continue Greg’s legacy by living his motto.”
Yank’s dedication to Rotary
Almind recalled an example of Yank’s invaluable mentorship and tireless commitment to Rotary.
“During our club’s ‘Visioning Workshop’ in January 2019, Greg’s suggestions were invaluable to making our club a more vibrant and dynamic club,” he said. “During my tenure as president, Greg would often pull me aside and give me some friendly, sage advice that would often make a big difference in our club’s effectiveness.”
Winner of the Service About Self Award in 2014, the prestigious award is given to Rotarians who demonstrate their commitment to helping others by volunteering their time and talents.
He traveled to Korea, Malawi, Ecuador, India and Belize on Rotary projects.
Yank, most recently a semi-retired business coach, had the ability to motivate people and enjoyed public speaking.
More about Greg Yank
He participated in community theater throughout his life and reprised the role of Tiny Tim every December in “A Christmas Carol” at the Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon.
From its beginning, Yank facilitated the quarterly meetings of BEST (Building Educational Success Together), bringing together the four school districts in the O’Fallon area.
For 11 years, he owned The Alternative Board TAB, a business coaching/peer advisory board franchise, then continued mentoring and working with business owners as a part-time coach. He was the principal in GY Consulting & Facilitation Services, specializing in strategic planning, facilitation, strategic governance and board development.
Yank was a Commissioner of the Metro East Park and Recreation District and a board member of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce.
Education background, surviving family
Yank earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, and a master’s degree in business administration from Xavier University in Cincinnati. He also received a “Specialist in Aging” Certificate from the University of Michigan/Wayne State, and was a graduate of Stanford University’s executive program.
He is survived by his wife, Catherine Taylor Yank, whom he married in 2000; three children: Damien Yank and his wife, Laura, of Troy; Gerrit Yank and Julia Yank, both of O’Fallon; three grandchildren, Grayson, Stella and Lilly; and five siblings.
His wife is a past Rotary governor, and they were both members of the Arch Klumph Society, which is the highest tiers of donors, and the Paul Harris and Bequest Societies.
Devotion to ridding the world of polio
The eradication of polio, as well as water, sanitation and world peace, are current Rotary initiatives, and one Yank was devoted to in recent years.
“We are helping rid the world of polio. We are this close — for the second time in history we can erase a disease —smallpox being the first,” Yank said in 2017. “We have been the lead not-for-profit organization lending a hand with the Gates Foundation, the Center of Disease Control, the World Health Organization. When we started in 1985, there were 350,000 polio cases in 125 countries reported annually. We have been helping immunize over 2.5 billion kids from around the world.”
Memorials, obit information
The family requests that memorial donations be made to the Rotary’s “End Polio Now” initiative using this link https://www.endpolio.org/donate. Presently, donations to End Polio Now are being matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Wolfersberger Funeral Home in O’Fallon handled the arrangements. For more obituary information or to leave online condolences, visit: https://www.wfh-ofallon.com/obituary/gregory-yank. The O’Fallon Rotary Club said it would organize a celebration of life at a future date “when it is safe for us all,” they posted on their Facebook page.