Monday, April 3, 2017

"He Exhaled Love"--Ernest E. Yoder 1925-2017

Ernest Yoder 1925-2017
My oldest brother-in-law, Ernest Yoder, a giant of a good man, passed away peacefully at age 92 at his home in Campbell County on Tuesday, March 28. Hundreds of friends, family and members of his church family gathered to celebrate his life this Saturday at the Bethel Mennonite Church near Rustburg.

I learned to know and love Ernest soon after we moved to Stuarts Draft, Virginia, when I was six-year-old. There he began to date and later married my oldest sister Lovina, who preceded him in death just over a year ago. He was a faithful father and husband, an active song leader and a promoter of good music in his church, and a hard working business man and farmer, somewhat in that order.

In 1964 he was involved in a tragic accident in which another vehicle caused a head-on collision in which both that driver and the driver of he truck in which Ernest was a passenger were killed. Alva Yoder, my cousin, and a close friend of Ernest, was fatally burned, and while Ernest was evicted from the truck and survived, he suffered from the effects of the accident for the rest of his life.

During a time of sharing memories after the funeral service and meal, one person described him well as "cheerful, welcoming, funny, a tease and as someone who loved to tell stories". In addition to taking a personal interest in each of his seven children, 30 grandchildren, 90 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren, he also had many "adopted" grandchildren in his church family who loved him as a granddaddy. Even after he lost most of his sight, he could recognize people by their voices, and never failed to offer an encouraging word.

Charlotte Nissley Freed from Ernest's congregation, who had fond memories of Ernest as an "adopted grandfather" when she young, wrote the following upon hearing of his death:


His strong frame stood
A gentle giant,

Arms spread like great branches
Welcoming children and wife
Grandchildren, church.
He stood like an umbrella
Over us.
He adopted us.
He would follow his wife
To the doors after church,
Feet stepping carefully
Always listening
To guess who spoke;
And he would smile broadly
When he knew it was I.

He must have had 
A hundred grandchildren
But in his crinkled squint
Each felt so special. Chosen.

He exhaled love
And the kind of dignity 
That sends a happy hush
To my soul.
Then his great branches would 
Gather me in 
With an approving smile.

Our oak has not fallen.
He is transplanted!
Carried by great wings
To the Father of our fathers;
To Jesus's outstretched arms.
spreads out his arms now
To family gone before,
And he walks with sure feet
By the river of life.

With much love,
Charlotte Nissley Freed

Here's a link to a video about him narrated by grandson Lowell Yoder:

And here's something I posted about my dear sister Lovina just over a year ago:

and a video of her grandson Lowell's memories of her

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