A veteran of World War II and retired proprietor of a jewelry business in Monroe, Ervin “Erv” G. Yoas passed away on Saturday, his 109th birthday. He was recognized with numerous medals for being the oldest person on Senior Citizens Day at the Monroe County Fair.

Erv’s death

The former longstanding Monroe businessman passed away at WellBridge in Pinckney, an assisted-living facility, at around 4 p.m. on Sunday after a brief illness.

Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m., friends may pay their respects at the Bacarella Funeral Home in Monroe, where services will begin at 2 p.m. with Zion Lutheran Church pastors Ross Ulrich and Greg Sitzman officiating. The burial will take place later at Roselawn Memorial Park in LaSalle.

Erv Yoas

Dave Sontag, his grandson, and Michelle Sontag, Dave Sontag’s wife, were by his side as he passed away. At St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Chelsea, Yoas was given a diagnosis with bladder cancer three weeks ago, and Michelle reported that cancer had spread to his liver. She claimed Yoas was aware of cancer but wished to keep it a secret and aimed to live until his next birthday.

She stated on Monday, “He didn’t want to do any chemo or radiation.” He was an amazing individual. He had an active life and was eager to see his Savior. It was truly a divine moment.

She praised his previous month for being “peaceful and so beautiful.” She claimed that a few days after he was discharged from the hospital, he lost all of his freedom, became immobile, and went into hospice care at WellBridge.

Up until that point, he continued to work out twice daily, take his showers, check his email on his computer, and countdown the days until his next birthday.

Erv’s Lively Personality

“He was very competitive and all about hitting a goal,” she said. “We told him he had eight days until his birthday. He saw that goal and said, ‘I can make eight days.’ The last couple of days we weren’t really sure. But he did. I was his go-to person. We’ve always been so close, a sweet connection. He has taken a part of my heart.

Erv Yoas

According to James B. Miller, a longstanding fair board member and the master of ceremonies for the senior awards program at the fair, Yoas was a star at the fair, especially on Senior Citizens Day (Wednesday) when he received trophies for being the oldest man present for roughly nine years in a row. As the oldest lady at the fair, Marion Yoas, his sister-in-law, has also received numerous honors, similar to Erv.

I remember Erv saying at last year’s fair, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be back next year,'” Miller recalled Sunday. “That’s one of the lasting images I have in my mind of Erv. (Another) was this 108-year-old man interacting with his cellphone while waiting for the senior program to begin. He certainly lived a great life.

Miller’s mother was a first cousin of Erv Yoas.

Michelle claimed Erv had all of his prizes on display at his apartment in WellBridge.

“He was very proud of them,” she said. “He was (always) watching his weight and working out twice a day. Quite incredible.”

He and Michelle both played violin and had a strong interest in music, she explained.

Erv’s Life at a Glance

Born on March 25, 1914, Yoas. Yoas graduated in June 1936 from Bradley Polytechnic Institute at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, according to a biography given by his family. Soon after, he started his profession as a jeweler, working at Keidan’s Jewelers in Monroe as a watchmaker and engraver.

Yoas opened Yoas Jewelers in Monroe in 1940 after deciding to go into business for himself. The store has been open for 34 years, except for the time he spent in the service.

His World War II duty started in August 1942 when he joined the U.S. Army Air Forces. Yoas trained Navy V-5 cadets at a base in Fraser while working as a primary War Training Service flight instructor.

He went back into the jewelry business in Monroe in 1946, although at a new site. He later married Elizabeth “Betty” Fountain, whom he had met at a New Year’s Eve party, in June 1946. Barbara (Sontag), then age 10, and Aurelie, then age 12, were two of Betty’s daughters from a previous marriage. Betty was a full-time employee of the new store. According to the family biography, “She was a driving force contributing to the success of the business.”

Erv Yoas and Marion Yoas

Marion Yoas and Barbara both live on after him.

Erv found time to visit the airport and pursue his passion in aviation despite the Yoases’ continued busyness running the shop. He frequently reminded his family of the fact that he was born soon after the Wright brothers’ historic first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

While living in Monroe, he also enjoyed playing the violin in the Monroe Civic Orchestra and the baritone horn in the Monroe City Band. Erv and Betty Yoas started their retirement in 1974 after selling their shop to Bruce and Diane Milkins. Betty passed away in 2002 as a result of complications from Alzheimer’s.

Erv stayed in Florida up until 2016, at which point he moved back to Michigan to live with his grandchildren before moving into an assisted care facility. He belonged to Monroe’s Zion Lutheran Church.

Conclusion

Erv Yoas, the grandfather popular in Monroe County for being the oldest man for several years, finally passed away on his 109th birthday. He was extremely lively and never shied away from enjoying life to the fullest.

Erv will be missed by many in the County.

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