After 53 years of marriage, Warren Yahr's wife, Carol, died in a car accident in August 2009 that nearly took both their lives, but through the grief, Yahr and his children joined together to make Carol's tragic ending a bright new beginning for the students she loved.
Yahr said his wife was a beloved teacher no matter where she taught and gave so much to her students that when the $300,000 insurance settlement came in, he and his family didn't think twice about what to spend the money on.
"My wife and I always wanted to give a scholarship and were never in a position to do that, so I talked to my kids and they didn't hesitate they just knew it was right," he said. "Even our seven grandkids, who are all in college said they didn't want any part of the settlement. They're all as generous as Carol, I think it must be a genetic problem, one we don't mind having."
Yahr said after they retired to Three Lakes in 1985 Carol was worried about the move.
"That was the making of our life up here, I don't think we'd have lasted had she not gotten involved in the Three Lakes School and Eagle River," he said. "She was apprehensive about the move, but once the schools started calling her to sub that phone rang virtually every day. She was the most outgoing, friendly person and the other teachers and administration requested her personally."
Yahr said Carol wanted to be involved in every subject and get to know every student, and the schools were better places because of her.
"She taught and subbed for everything from typing to auto class and welding, and she never gave out a single detention," he said. "The students just loved her and confided in her. Even the worst and badly behaved kids carried her books down the hall and confided their problems to her. She touched so many lives, they all adored her."
Yahr said they day Carol died was a blow not only to him and his family but to the schools and all the students whose lives she touched.
"She ran the rock and read program, she had her master's in remedial reading and she just had a talent for getting the non-readers to read," he said. "Three days after the accident, the district administrator Dr. Karling from Three Lakes called me and said 'I want you to know the Three Lakes School District just lost the best friend it ever had.'"
Not only was she an inspiration as a substitute teacher, she also became involved with the library board, later becoming the chair, the school arts association, started a youth symphony, and helped out at the Three Lakes Center for the Arts.
"She was the happiest person you can imagine. Big cars and boats and houses had no interest to us, if we had skis and a canoe and she had her students, that's all we needed," Yahr said. "That's why none of us would keep the settlement, because she would want to continue to give back to the school. My grandkids said this is for grandma."
The Carol Yahr Memorial Scholarship Foundation was created with the funds from the insurance settlement, amounting to $300,000, for which Yahr and his children, Laura and Steven, are the active directors. They also started a donation based fund in Carol's name for any future contributors to the Three Lakes School.
Since the foundation is tax-exempt and if the value continues to increase, Yahr said the school would have the authority to increase the amount that is awarded to each student.
The foundation awards three students with a $625 per semester four-year scholarship. Last year, Yahr and his two children selected the first three recipients of the scholarships. Now they're getting ready to award another three students in the scholarship's second year. Yahr and his two children will each select a winner they think is worthy of the money and he said they have specific requirements they want to uphold.
See Yahr, Page 8
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"When we look at a candidate we want to make sure they have a need for it, that's number one," he said. "We also want to see that they have job experience, that they know how to work, and their community service. And of course academic standing has to be good."
Yahr said although it is not the life it was before the accident, he feels that by carrying on her name through the scholarship, students will continue to look to Carol for help.
"Need is the thing, we'd love to have applicants who want to become teachers get the scholarship in memory of Carol but we don't want to limit the students applying," he said. "Of course it's unfortunate that this is how we got enough money to do the scholarship but at least some good can come out of the whole thing."
Monica Baltich may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012
Article comment by:
Congratulations to the Yahr family. To find courage to give in such a moment of sadness is an extraordinary achievement. I have three great nieces who attend school in the Three Lakes School District. If they knew Mrs. Yahr, I am sure they will miss her. I hope that the example you have set will inspire others to turn tragedy into an act everyone can be proud of. Thank you!
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