White Plains lost one of the pillars of the community when the last of the York brothers died over the weekend.
Jack York, 90, leaves behind a broad network of family and friends after decades as a business owner, firefighter and member of the American Legion/VFW, Ruritan Club and White Plains Friends Meeting Church.
Nephew Gary York gave the eulogy at this week’s funeral, focusing on Jack’s impact both in his family and his neighborhood.
Gary York said his grandparents, L.M. and Jettie York, moved to the community around 1935, when Jack was about 9 years old.
In 1947 or ‘48, Jack became one of the four co-owner of York Oil Co., serving alongside his brothers, Gary noted.
Before long, the Yorks had a thriving rural business, delivering heating oil both to the houses and to tobacco barns for curing. Jack had to help drive because they had seven trucks running at one time, Gary said.
In 1981 when he was 55, Jack sold his share of the company and kept his focus on civic duty.
Jack was a charter member and past chief of the White Plains Volunteer Fire Department where he served 22 years.
When Surry County Schools opened a new elementary school west of U.S. 601, the old school ground was taken over by the Ruritan Club.
The Ruritans were a lot more than just the Yorks, Gary said, deflecting the credit. The county has allowed the club to lease the spot on Old U.S. 601 for a dollar a year, and lots of families have taken a part in keeping the place up and running.
That club, of which Jack was a member for decades, allowed youth baseball, football and basketball teams to use the grounds. Boy Scout troops have used the buildings for meetings. Hundreds of charity fundraisers have been held in the former school cafeteria.
Gary York said he was approached at the funeral by another longtime Ruritan, Mike Branch, who recalled his last visit to see Jack three weeks ago at the Joan & Howard Woltz Hospice Home in Dobson. Branch told Gary that the last thing Jack said to him was to look after the Ruritan Club and all that it does.
“Jack was a servant in a quiet, unassuming way,” said Gary. “He stayed behind the scenes; he was a benevolent giver.”
His better half
Gary said it is impossible to think of Jack without thinking of the love of his life, wife Madge Simmons York.
Jack served in the military during World War II, but when he got out in 1946, he married Madge and began attending her church. They were active members there for six decades.
The couple built a house right across the street from the York Oil office on Old U.S. 601 and took great pride in keeping up the yard. Gary believed there wasn’t a prettier property from one end of the highway to the other. Grandson Dustin and his wife Holly now live in that residence.
For several years, Jack kept chicken houses with about 3,000 chickens, said Gary. Now that land has a brick home where relatives Joan and Johnny Bowman live.
Looking over the obituary, Gary counted 26 people named in the death notice.
This was a tight-knit family for all four generations, he said. Most any time he stopped to see his uncle, he struggled to find an empty seat with all the folks visiting.
And by his side every step of the way was Madge.
“Jack and Madge were like one person,” said Gary. “You didn’t see one without the other.” When they were speaking, the couple made eye contact and finished each other’s sentences.
Gary said he finished his eulogy by paraphrasing an old gospel song: “The roll is called up yonder, and Jack is there.”
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.