Don Yenko lived life of passions, successes.
By Regis M. Stefanik, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
For as long as his mother could remember, Donald F. Yenko was in command of his life. He did what he enjoyed and he did it well.
In high school in Bentleyville, Washington County, he was class president for four years. On graduation day, he was valedictorian. He started to play the piano at 12 and was the leader of the high school dance band, his mother, Martha Campbell Yenko, said yesterday.
He learned to fly an airplane at 16 and when Mr. Yenko was at Pennsylvania State University, he started the school's first flying club.
A passion for debating and speech that started in high school carried over into college, where he was president of the Penn State Debating Club.
When he was 21 and at the legal age for driving race cars, he developed a new passion.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Mr. Yenko received international acclaim for racing Corvettes in everything from Sports Car Club of America regional races to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. He raced in such prestigious U.S. endurance contest as the 24-hour Daytona and the 12-hour Sebring. He was a four-time Sports Car Club of America national driving champion.
Mr. Yenko also tested the designed high-performance General Motors cars. In the 1960s, he created the Yenko Stinger Corvair, which still is used in racing.
His passion for racing and competition never deserted him. Several years ago, Mr. Yenko and co-pilot Jack Lord, better known as Steve McGarrett of television's "Hawaii Five-O," finished first in an air race in Wisconsin.. Mr. Yenko raced last year in the Escort Endurance Cup in Atlanta.
Mr. Yenko died Thursday along with three friends when the plane he was piloting crashed while landing at a Charleston, W. Va. airport.
Jim Phillips, a close friend of Mr. Yenko, said, "Don was an outgoing guy. When he went to races he played the piano at night at the hotel before and after the races."
Mr. Yenko's former wife, Hope, said her husband loved life. He was a happy man and loved his family. He had a great sense of humor.
Mr. Yenko was a member of Syria Temple and Beallsville Masonic Lodge, had served as president of the Corvett Club of America, and had bene a member of the Sports Car Club of America and the International Motor Sports Association.
He is survived by his parents, Frank and Martha Campbell Yenko of McMurray, and by two daughters, Dr. Lynn Roberts of Pittsburgh and Terri Yenko of New York City.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at L. Bienhauer & Sons Co.,2828 Washington Road, Peters, Washington County, where services will be at 2 p.m. Monday. Burial will be private.
From Pittsburgh Post Gazetts May 7, 1987
Donald F. Yenko
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