John Melvin Yates sprang from this mortal coil on November 29 from his home in Davis at the age of 69. John was the first of six sons born to Melvin Benjamin Yates and Florence Patricia Rambold on January 21, 1949 in Billings, Montana.
When John was four, his parents moved to Los Angeles with him and his younger brother, Richard. Four more brothers arrived to join John and Richard. The family lived on Newton Street in Torrance and grew up with an amazing community of neighbors who became lifelong friends. John loved to drive through the old neighborhood whenever visiting his family in the area.
John attended St. Lawrence Martyr School and South Torrance High School, graduating in 1967 with no real plans for his future. Luckily for him, his mother had applied to the University of Montana on his behalf and he was accepted. He joined Sigma Nu fraternity and learned to ski. After three semesters he decided to transfer to U.C. Riverside where he pursued a double major in Political Science and Economics. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1971.
He was accepted to U.C. Davis law school and entered in the fall of 1971. By the end of the first year he concluded he was not cut out to be an attorney and decided to take a year off. He hitchhiked to New York and flew off to Europe. He spent a year in Switzerland, mostly in the small mountain town of Murren. He worked for the cheese shop and the bakery delivering cheese and pastries to the restaurants and hotels in the summer and delivering supplies to a mountain chalet by ski in the winter. He really learned to ski that winter.
On his return, he taught 7th and 8th grade for one year at St. Lawrence Martyr. He then moved to San Francisco to work for the civil engineering firm of Leeds, Hill & Jewett. There he met the love of his life, Nan. They married in 1980 and their son, Ryan, was born in May 1982.
John’s career took the family to San Diego in 1986 where he consulted for Kaiser Marsten Associates and then to the University of Southern California to be vice president of the USC Real Estate Development Corporation. Being a lifelong USC football fan made this a dream job for him. In 1992 he brought his real estate development expertise to U.C. Davis where he spent 16 years developing projects including Davis Commons, Aggie Village, the Colleges at LaRue, the hotel/conference center and many others. The project that gave him the most satisfaction was working with Bob Segar to visualize and make a reality of the pedal-powered carousel in Community Park. Seeing his two year old granddaughter ride Bob the corgi dog on the carousel was a very special moment.
John collaborated with Chuck Roe, Pyramid construction, on several University projects as well as the carousel. The two shared a passion for Birmingham Roller Pigeons. They spent many Saturdays traveling around central California visiting other members of their club, watching pigeons fly and roll and in return hosting pigeon flys at their homes in Davis.
John and Nan liked to travel and visited Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Korea and many European countries. In 1989, they bought a small vacation home just south of Ensenada, Mexico, and spent a couple weekends a month there until the move to Davis in 1992.
John’s dream was to have his own place in Montana where his family had vacationed every summer to hike and fish at East Rosebud Lake at the cabin his grandfather built in the late 1940’s. His dream came true in 2008 when he retired and their home in Red Lodge was built. Lots of golf and fishing occupied his summers in Montana.
John’s last job started in the fall of 2017 and continued until he left for Montana in May 2018. He read to kindergartners at North Davis Elementary School. He genuinely enjoyed the reading, choosing the books and the interactions with the children. He tried to have a magic trick for them each week and was continually amazed at their comprehension and abilities. When asked he would say it was the best job he ever had and was so disappointed he would not be able to do it again.
The family would like to thank all their wonderful friends in Red Lodge for the love and support they provided as John’s illness progressed so rapidly. Returning to Davis brought more love and support from friends there.
John is survived by his wife of 38 years, Nan, son Ryan (Kadie), granddaughter Emma, brothers Richard, Jim, Dan, Tom and Kevin (Stormi) and nephews Patrick, Rowdy and Strummer and niece, Navy Ann.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggest making a donation to Yolo Hospice , P.O. Box 1014, Davis CA 95617.
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