Rancher remembered for work ethic, loyalty

Marilyn Oaklund, of Caldwell, greets Alvin Yantis, Jack Yantis’ brother, before Sunday’s memorial service Oaklund is a cousin of Donna Yantis, Jack’s widow.
Marilyn Oaklund, of Caldwell, greets Alvin Yantis, Jack Yantis’ brother, before Sunday’s memorial service Oaklund is a cousin of Donna Yantis, Jack’s widow.

This story has been edited to correctly identify Jack Yantis’ daughter, Sarah Yantis.

COUNCIL For two hours, an emotionally threadbare community set aside unanswered questions about how Jack Yantis died.

Instead, the standing-room-only public memorial service for Yantis on Sunday in the Council High School gym was about first drinks and first loves, boyhood pranks and glory days, mischievous grins and frog hunts.

Speakers — several of whom graduated from Council High with Yantis in 1971 — focused on the man rather than the Nov. 1 shooting death of Yantis, 62, a rancher, in an encounter with two Adams County sheriff’s deputies

He could outrun, outwrestle anybody. He was the greatest asset in a snowball fight.

Classmate Troy Schwartz

Recurring themes emerged: a work ethic Yantis shared with his two brothers; a love starting in second grade for his wife, Donna; a wry smile that let people know the gears in his head were turning.

“He had a laugh that came from deep inside him,” classmate Bob Davis told the crowd. “It worked its way up.”

Yantis’ daughter Sarah said her father gave her the first gift of her new life when she was airlifted to a Boise hospital because of a complicated birth. On his drive to Boise, he stopped by the side of a road and picked the first blooming pussy willows of the year. He gave her pussy willows for her birthday every February afterward.

“My father was my hero from the moment he drove me home from the hospital,” she said.

Steve Ritter, another class of ’71 graduate, said he and Yantis became blood brothers as boys, cutting their arms and pressing them together. Yantis taught Ritter how to field-dress a deer. The pair tried chewing tobacco together for the first time.

Ritter said Yantis had his back when he irked larger boys. He remembered Yantis as one of the best playmakers on a Council High football team that went undefeated during Yantis’ junior year,

Those attending took home daffodil blooms in remembrance of Yantis’ affection for the first yellow blossoms of the spring.

Ritter said he will remember all of the adventures — hunting and rattlesnakes, bull riding, and girls — that he and Yantis embarked on together. “He loved wide open spaces and the challenges we found,” Ritter said.

Paul Kamerdula told of comparing pocket knives with Yantis when they were 5. He got into his first fistfight with Yantis when both were 7, then hung out with Yantis later that day.

Kamerdula said he will remember the last time he visited Jack and Donna Yantis earlier this year.

“They just looked really contented,” he said. “They were very happy. Everything in his life was good.”

He always had a smile. It might be a bit mischievous sometimes, but when he spoke to people, he always had a smile.

Classmate Troy Schwartz

The circumstances of Yantis’ death are being investigated by the Idaho State Police and the FBI. One of Yantis’ bulls had been struck by a car on U.S. 95 near his ranch, and he had brought a gun to the accident scene to kill it. He died when the deputies’ and Yantis’ guns were fired. Authorities haven’t explained what happened, but Yantis’ family says the deputies killed him needlessly.

“I’m hoping this senseless tragedy results in something good for this valley,” Ritter said.

In an interview, Carole Gallant said she respected Yantis as a hard-working cattleman.

“He’s a typical rancher. They’ve got a lot of grit in their craw,” Gallant said.

The unanswered questions remain on the forefront of the mind of the community, Gallant said, but she added:

“This is survival country. We’ll get through this.”