Sunday, March 2, 2014

Kay Yennie selected Handmaiden of the Lord for 2014

Kay Yennie and her daughters: From left, Mary Jo Cillian, Kay Yennie, Lois Turnwald, and Niki Smith. All attended the CCW luncheon.

These remarks were prepared for the presentation of the Handmaiden of the Lord Award to CCW member Kay Yennie, who joined the parish in 1969.

Mary Kay Yennie was born in February 2, 1932 to John and Otillia Kearney in Galveston, Texas. She grew up in Galveston and Eagle Lake, Texas. She had no siblings. Her father was a railroad man and her mother was a newspaper editor, so it is no wonder she was destined to travel and tell all the news.

As a child, she seemed headed for stardom as a featured dancer in the mold of Shirley Temple, or a world-class majorette, complete with twirly baton. She was raised as a good Catholic girl who rarely got in trouble (except for the time she and her friends were caught by Sister Mary Agnes smoking in the Girls Room).

She graduated from Dominican High School and went on to study education at the University of Texas in Austin. While she was a student, she met a handsome young Air Force cadet, Eugene Verne Yennie, at a beach party in Galveston one fine summer evening. She almost didn’t go to the beach party but her mother bought her a new outfit so, of course, she went to show it off.

She was smitten. and she and Gene became inseparable for the rest of his training at Ellington Air Force Base. He was shipped off to the war in Korea, but he called her from Tokyo a short time later to propose. Her answer was YES! YES! YES! and they were married July 5, 1952, while he was on leave.

They were stationed at a tiny air field near Great Falls, Montana, where their beautiful and talented daughter Niki was born. Then, they were stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California, where handsome and clever son John and beautiful and talented daughter Lois were born. After a few years in California, word came that the family was to be stationed in England but first there was a brief stop in Galveston, where their beautiful and talented daughter Mary Jo was born.

Then, equipped with a newborn and three toddlers, Kay set off for England by herself. Gene was already there, or so she thought. Turned out Gene met her at Grand Central Station in New York City to accompany the family  to London. Whew!

Life in England was elegant. Kay regularly visited Buckingham Palace, where she had tea with the Queen. Well, she DID visit Buckingham Palace once, as a tourist. (And, through connections, got a special behind-the-scenes tour). Never heard that story? Ask Kay, she’ll tell you.

While in England, Kay and Gene visited all the fabulous capitals of Europe. When, at last, they bid a fond farewell to jolly old England, they returned to California for a brief time. There followed a series of assignments that culminated at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. The family moved to St. Petersburg and that’s when Kay first came to the little Spanish-style mission church on Snell Isle that was St. Raphael. The year was 1969.

In those days, St. Raphael was pretty quiet. In fact, they used to roll up the sidewalks after Sunday Mass, at least as Kay remembers it. Activities during the week were rare but Kay loved her little church with the blue ceiling and bright red altar piece. It was a cozy place and Kay felt right at home.

But the life of an Air Force family is all about moving, and it wasn’t long that Kay and Gene would be moving to Panama for a brief stay. After that, the Pentagon called and the family was off to Washington D.C. But Gene was coming up on three decades in the Air Force and it was time for a change. One cold winter evening, Gene had had enough of the snow and ice of the nation’s capitol, and of service in the Air Force. He asked Kay where she would like to retire. She didn’t hesitate. “St. Raphael,” she exclaimed.

Kay and Gene returned to St. Raphael (and, incidentally, St. Petersburg) in 1978. By then, the parish had grown considerably and there were many church activities. Kay became immersed in St. Raphael parish life. She joined the Women’s Guild. She was on Altar Care. She cooked for the first Christ Renews His Parish women’s group and participated in the second one. She taught CCD. She volunteered at the school. There was practically nothing Kay wasn’t involved in. And this went on for 30-plus years before she cut back a little bit.

When the new church was built, Kay organized the Holy Hoovers, a group of volunteers who spruced up the church every Saturday for about seven years.

Even today, at the age of 82, Mary Kay Yennie still models in CCW fashion shows and participates in other CCW activities. She attends daily Mass, which is only a short walk from her condo overlooking the St. Raphael parking lot. She has a front-row seat at 9:30 Mass on Sundays and rarely misses coffee and donuts afterward.

Kay and Gene, both only children, had three beautiful and talented daughters and one handsome and clever son. They now have ten grandchildren, and thirty great-grandchildren.

As a child, Mary Kay Yennie seemed destined to travel the world and tell all the news. She and Gene are frequently on the go visiting their widely scattered family. Kay has also been to the Hawaiian Islands, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Mexico, England, all over Europe — and Rome twice to see the Pope.

And she’s still telling all the news.

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