- Ken Yeso
- Graduation Year:
Memories of Ken Yeso
One of the greatest shocks in my life was going to a class reunion and seeing DECEASED next to Ken Yeso’s name. Ken was a handsome, dynamic, courageous young man and a true hero. If you look in our Yearbook (see below) you’ll find Ken everywhere: In Academic Challenge, Boy’s State, Cardinal Concessions, Cardinal Notes, Classical Music Society, Environ/Mentor, German Club, Gymnastics, Key Club. Latin Club, Literary Group, Nemesis, Philarmonic Kazoo, Plays, Prom Committee, Science Club and Thespians.
A good, loyal friend, Ken wasn't above pulling [fairly harmless] pranks on the school with the rest of us 'lab ass-s' (we, um, deleted the '’t' off our school passes). Pranks that caused the school no end of headaches, I might add, such as us finding the school flag our senior year in March and, when nobody in the office seemed interested in taking it off our hands, Ken suggested we stash it in the ceiling above the Chem Lab asst's office 'for now'. It wasn't missed until the day before the Awards Ceremony. Many long hours passed that day with the school hierarchy (The Principal, Mr.Wolfgram, especially) frantically trying to locate that flag until someone remembered 'they' have it! Dear Mr. Wolfgram. He died shortly after our graduation. [It was rumored his major heart attack at only 47 was attributed by his widow in large part to our hi-jinks. I hope that's not true.]
Ken was also one of the masterminds behind 'The International Philharmonic Kazoo Orchestra' - a group of about 25 of us who, armed with kazoos - managed to infiltrate a number of school functions, the most notable of which was the Awards Ceremony where, when it came to the National Anthem stood and proudly performed the anthem perfectly in 6 part harmony. We have Ken to thank that we got away with that one: Mr. W. had arranged on the Q.T. for the police to frisk the students for contraband prior to the ceremony, but Ken was working in the office that day and we were forewarned. We slipped into the auditorium the night before using a Certain Someone’s duplicate master key and taped our kazoos, marshmallows, cigarettes, etc under our chairs. The next day we merely smiled at the Mentor police men and women as they patted us down, walked quietly to our chairs, reached underneath….and waited for our Director to give us the sign…..
Ken was part of our clandestine kitchen in the Chemistry department where our gang cooked fresh soup over the gas jets, made mass amounts of popcorn under ventilator hoods [to keep the smell contained] and even homemade bread in the sterilizing oven...and sold it [despite strict orders to cease and desist by our principal Mr. W] all to finance our group's different projects. He brought in his favorite records – James Taylor was the group favorite - and we listened to them as we sought to keep our alternative school cafeteria from discovery.
Our 1972 Yearbook is definitely the most riotous – and notorious- one ever produced by the school (there was an attempt to recall the copies after they'd been distributed since so many little items were found 'objectionable' by the Administration). Seems the 'officially approved' version of the Yearbook had been switched and a version that poked [harmless] fun at many school icons had been put into the shipping box [along with the Official Approval Letter] before it went to the printers by 'those troublemakers' but no one knew how. The truth can now be told: Ken was one of the key players in the Great Yearbook Switch. [Most of our little group were on the Yearbook staff, officially or un-officially]. If you can find a copy of the 1972 yearbook you’ll be delighted at what we pulled off . Best of all, Ken pops up all over the book. Glance thru and you’ll see Ken’s elfin grin everywhere. He even gleefully went along with the 'Science Club' photo taken with our backs to the camera, lab gear on backwards and all the names printed in reverse underneath.
We spent many long hours thinking of ‘tweaks’ to that yearbook. Ex: Mr. Wolfgram had been nicknamed ‘Spanky’ by those who’d run amiss of his stern rules so it was only fitting Administration’s pages were entitled ‘Spanky & Our Gang’. The photo of our Lab Ass’t group (including Mr. Wizard our skeleton) clearly shows our irreverence towards practically everything, much of which Ken was a major instigator. Some of the best puns that serve as page titles are his. It wasn’t all tongue in cheek: on a more serious note, if you do happen to find a copy of our ’72 yearbook you’ll also find it full of simply beautiful poetry and verses from Thoreau to Cat Stevens that Ken and the group found inspiring.
Despite his humorous side, Ken was a top honors student (every member of Ms. Schormuller's lab ass's were required to maintain a 3.0 or better status – which made us really smart alecks, as Ken would tease) and a chess fiend who, like our friend Paul Decker, carried a portable set with him…just in case anyone wanted a pick-up game. It was Ken who taught me how to play 3-D chess. Ken was one of the first chosen for our 'Academic Challenge' team - which won handily that year thanks Ken, Paul Decker and Trudy Holchin. ...and our coach Ms. Schormuller.
Ken's tremendous courage & heart were proven twice: the first was the day of the infamous car accident where he, Skip Osborne, Mary Ann Kucera & one other student hit another vehicle head-on. Perhaps 5’6” in bare feet & despite his own serious injuries it was Ken who pulled everyone from the smoldering wreck to safety. He was given an award for valor for his actions. [He refused to let us put that into the yearbook, saying it was ‘no big deal’.]
The second time was the last day of school. We were all gathered together in the Chem Lab to say goodbye to our beloved Ms. Schormuller [who was busy getting next year’s class information sorted out on a lab table]. Jim Leithold sauntered in carrying a vial in a pair of long tongs and announced he’d ‘perfected’ Nitro Glycerin. [We’d been teasing Ms. S for months with fake ‘nitro’ made of wheat germ oil after she taught a few of us the basic chemistry behind explosives…but only after making us swear in blood we’d never actually make any]. Jim, to our horror, plopped his nitro into a pitcher of ice water Ms. S. was drinking. Somehow Ken realized before the rest of us this wasn’t fake – but real - and he knew like us, thanks to Ms. S’ stern warnings, that nothing on earth is more unstable than homemade nitro glycerin.
I’ll never forget him yelling “Oh G-d – Everyone…Get the hell out of here!!!” Ken – still not 100% after the accident - then grabbed two other students, & dragged them out the left hand door of the lab and dove on top to protect them. Ms. S. literally threw me out the right along with another student and the rest clambered under the relative safety of the sturdy lab test stations. We all heard four distinct explosions as the chem lab blew up; reduced to chaos with all of Ms. S. papers now confetti floating on the air. Fortunately the force of the explosions went upwards & was absorbed in the ceiling tiles – so those under the desks were unharmed.
No matter how long I live I’ll never forget the sight of Ken leaning up against the lockers outside laughing hysterically, tears streaming down his face as a screaming Ms. S. chased Jim out of the room, down the hall and out of the school with a broomstick. (Ken told us the next day at graduation [Jim conspicuous by his absence] she’d chased him for over a mile.
Ken dreamed of being a National Forester. He loved the outdoors, animals, science and nature in general. He was the force behind Mentor being one of the first high schools with an official Environmental Club. Thanks to him (and his dearest girlfriend Mary Ann Kucera, Skip Osborne, Mary Jane Skiba, myself and the like), we had the first recycling program in Mentor, getting our gang busy collecting paper and aluminum cans to be recycled. We were laughed at in the beginning, but soon got many others involved. Ken’s favorite Bible verse about our planet is in the Yearbook: “Speak to the Earth, and it shall teach thee” Job12:8
One of my fondest memories is the day we all took a road trip to a beautiful Geodesic Dome (not sure where it is now). We wandered thru the various climates under the dome while Ken talked us through; teaching us about the plants, animals and such of the ecosystems we were in and the dangers of upcoming global problems if we didn't start caring for our planet. Ken was always talking about the dangers of cutting down the Amazon rain forests, of over harvesting the ocean, the dangers of pollution and how Man had to start caring for the earth, not raping it for profit. He was far ahead of his day.
I’ll never hear a James Taylor song or smell popcorn without thinking of Ken. He’s a reminder we can be studious yet have a grand time. Thanks to Ken I learned to laugh at myself and to treat the world gently. Of all my memories of Mentor High School, Ken is one of the best.
Ken Yeso is missed sorely by all who knew him. Dearest Ken, I’d say ‘rest in peace’ but I have no doubt you’re up in Heaven right now wreaking some sort of happy heavenly havoc.
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