Robert Dale Yeager of Valentine, NE, passed away peacefully at his home near Valentine, Nebraska on December 12, 2018 at the age of 92.
Born on June 18, 1926 at the home of his grandparents, Herbert and Zada McCoy in Blue Hill Nebraska, Bob was the oldest child of Vaughn and Doris Downing McCoy. He was a premature baby, which at the time was very uncommon. He was so small that his mother and grandmother prepared a shoe box for him as his first crib and cradle. In his younger years, he lived in Blue Hill and spent much time with his maternal grandparents Harry and Sadie Downing at their ranch near Whitman, NE. Bob was an avid swimmer at the Hastings YMCA and played high school football in Hastings. When he was in grade school, he went to live with relatives, Dick and Flora Sweeney on their farm near Ravenna, Nebraska. In later years, he described these years as some of the happiest of his childhood, as he learned much about farming and raising livestock from Dick. While living with the Sweeney family, Bob’s grandfather, Harry Downing, brought his horse to the Sweeney farm from the Downing ranch, which was one of his best childhood memories. Tragically, Dick and Flora were killed in a car accident near Ravenna and he returned to Hastings to live with his mother for the remainder of his school years. Doris married Henry Yeager, who adopted Bob and his brother Jerry and later had a daughter, Sadie.
Doris and Hank raised the boys in Hastings through the drought and Great Depression years. During World War II, Bob enlisted in the army prior to finishing high school. On April 8, 1945, he reported to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, to begin active duty. He served two years in the Paratroops and reported that he made several hundred jumps from airplanes during which time he was stationed in occupied Japan near the end of WWII. He told family and friends that he made more than 200 jumps from airplanes for training and while on assignments. After his discharge in 1946, he took flying lessons in Hyannis, Nebraska and flew his own J-3.
In the early spring of 1949, he flew his plane to the nearby Kime ranch to take his new girlfriend, Beth Kime to a dance at another ranch. That night was the beginning of the historic Blizzard of ’49. They made it back safely to the Kime ranch that night, but Bob and his plane remained at the ranch until the weather cleared and the historic snowfall melted allowing him to fly his plane back to the Downing ranch. He and Beth were married on June 20, 1949. After their marriage, they worked at the Downing ranch the first summer and then at the Kime ranch until the fall of 1952. Bob’s mother bought the Shorty Barr homestead and Irwin Barkley land in the Merriman area, and they moved there to operate it for her.
Bob and Beth sold the ranch and retired to their acreage on Chaduza Canyon Road near Valentine in July of 1995.
Bob enjoyed the ranch life and was well known for his ability to train ranch horses for steer and calf roping and for working with his cutting horses. He was an avid competitor in cutting competitions, still competing after achieving 90 years of age. He made handmade cinches and loved to tell stories, laugh and joke with friends and family. Bob is survived by his daughter, Linda Jo Hamilton of Hyattville, WY; son, Kirk Robert of Denver; grandchildren, Diane (Curt) Cox of Casper, WY, Doug (Michelle) Hamilton of Worland, WY, Robert Yeager of Denver, CO; great-grandchildren, Carter and Cooper Cox and Aspyn and Burgess Hamilton; sister, Sadie (Jack) Borland of Lincoln, NE and brother-in-law, Buzz (Shirley) Kime of Valentine, NE. He was preceded in death by his parents Vaughn McCoy and Doris Downing Yeager and his step father Henry Yeager, and his beloved wife, Beth Kime Yeager.
Memorial service for Bob Yeager was held on Thursday, Dec. 20th, 2018 at 11:00 AM at Sandoz Chapel of the Pines in Valentine. Burial followed at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Valentine. Sandoz Chapel of the Pines was in charge of service arrangements.