Midsummer’s Music just lost one of its founders and best friends. Robert Yeomans died on June 1st. He was one of the signers of the incorporation papers when Midsummer’s Music became a not-for-profit corporation. He went on to serve on the board for many years and served as our vice-president.
But Bob was so much more. For Jean and me, Bob, and his wife Charlotte, were for many years our dearest friends and our neighbors. Bob and Charlotte were very supportive of Midsummer’s Music from the very beginning – no, even from before the beginning. We had our very first meeting in their home. During the summer of 1990, Bob and Charlotte invited a number of their friends and acquaintances to their home to meet Jean and me and to discuss the feasibility of a chamber music festival in Door County. Among the many distinguished guest were Virginia Terhune, who ran the Peninsula Music Festival at that time, Robert Hastings, who went on to become the Director of the Door County Chamber of Commerce, and Alicia and Hugh Mulliken. Alicia was President of the Peninsula Arts Association. Enough encouraging response flowed from that meeting that we took the next step, and by the summer of 1991, we had our first season.
But Bob and Charlotte were so much more to us than just fellow supporters of Midsummer’s Music. We first met them in a most unusual way. Jean and I stayed a couple of nights at the Griffin Inn (now Wickman House restaurant) way back in the mid 1980s when it was a B&B. Joyce Crittenden, who owned the Griffin with her husband Paul, served us breakfast. She soon learned that we were heading out for the day to visit our newly purchased vacant property at the end of the peninsula. She correctly surmised that we were neighbors of her good friends, the Yeomans. Because she thought so highly of them, and because Joyce was such a wonderful person, she wrapped up some of the delicious rhubarb breakfast cake she had made for our enjoyment that morning and said, “Here, take this up to the Yeomans and introduce yourselves. Just say ‘this is from Joyce’.”
What a fantastic way to meet your neighbors! Having just built their home and moved to Door County from Winnetka, IL, the Yeomans were eager to help us with our pending building project. Knowing that we were making many brief and hasty visits from Evanston to see the progress on our new home, they offered theirs to us one weekend when they were going to be away. What a wonderful treat to be able to get up in the morning and walk through the woods to our construction site. During that brief time in their home, I wandered into Bob’s study. I had admired it so on previous visits with its many shelves of books. I relished the opportunity to spend a little time at leisure reading the titles. What I didn’t count on was a little space between the books that formed a cubby-hole just large enough to accommodate a wooden plaque with a metal inscription. It was far back in this space. I had to bend over and peer in. The Bronze Star! I knew Bob had served in the Marines in WW II, but he had never mentioned this. Its inscription described how Lt. Robert Yeomans had charged an enemy machine gun emplacement on an island in the South Pacific in order to save the men under him in his company.
I recently heard that when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, the entire entering Harvard Law School class signed up for military duty. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob were one of them. He came home and completed his degree from Harvard followed by a very successful career in the law. He provided Midsummer’s Music much help on the legal side, even in retirement. Among other things, he prepared our application to the IRS to be a tax-exempt organization (501-c-3).
I could write volumes about this wonderful person and great friend and his wife, but let me conclude with this little story. During our second Midsummer’s season (1992), we performed at The Hardy Gallery. Temperatures plummeted the day of our concert in the unheated Hardy. At concert time, it was in the 30s. Frost occurred in the interior of the peninsula that night, and it was the summer solstice!
Hugh Mulliken brought in a kerosene torpedo heater (think construction site) from the Ephraim Airport. We ran it anytime the music wasn’t playing, and it smelled like a bus station. But among the 19 people in the audience that evening were Bob and Charlotte in their heavy coats, smiling from ear to ear.
When we perform this Friday, June 20th at The Hardy, I will be thinking of them in their coats enjoying the music. But then again, I think of them so often. Thank you Joyce Crittendon for the rhubarb cake. What a rich gift. Please visit www.midsummersmusic.com or call 920-854-7088 to enjoy what Bob and Charlotte helped create.