Guest Post by Jack Frost in memory of Edgar Yancey
March 2, 1926 – Jan. 3, 2010
I met Ed Yancey in the fall of 2009. He and his sweet wife, Elizabeth, owned a small cabin on a lake where I was living with my family. We had walked past their cabin many times over the previous eight months or so, and I wondered who owned the place. It was in obvious need of much repair and upgrading, and there was a curious rooster standing in the window of the front room, facing passersby as though standing guard.
It was after a members meeting in that year that Ed and Libby stopped their silver Dodge pickup outside our home and knocked on the door. They hesitatingly told me they were in need of some help with some siding on their little cabin, and our landlord had suggested me as a worker capable of doing what was needed done. I agreed to look at the project, and began work on this little home in need of such care.
Over the next year, I was retained to do a variety of improvements to the little cabin; repairs to an exterior wall, replace a wall mounted air conditioner, painting the entire interior of the little place, and plumbing repairs. The last job was to replace the stairs that were so steep and dangerous so Ed would be able to get up to the cabin without danger of falling. He was quite proud of the set of steps I built for him.
Our family became quite good friends with Ed and Libby. One day they asked if we would go to their first home, a small place near Guntersville, Alabama. It was another small home that Ed had built for his new bride shortly after returning from his time in the Air Force during World War Two. I rode with Ed in his silver Dodge pickup, and he told me story after story during the entire hour and a half trip to the site. The return trip brought on more stories and repetition of stories that were obviously important to him. I hope to remember as many of these stories as I can, as they are a part of the history not only of Ed and Libby, but of our country as well.
As stories go, these were not complete, but give an interesting counterpoint to some of the history of our soldiers in World War Two, as well as our veterans returning from the war to settle back into daily life here in the states. Ed was a nose gunner onboard a B-24, one of the more dangerous jobs of the fliers. The chances of a nose gunner returning from a mission were around 50-50. He was onboard one such bomber that took off from a field in Idaho. Gunners were not at stations upon takeoff due to the danger of death or injury from disintegrating props on takeoff. Ed was sitting in the rear of the plane with other members of his crew as the plane gained altitude. Suddenly, the plane made a sharp turn and began to return to the runway. Apparently an engine had failed, and the trip aborted. The gunners sat on the floor, one in front of another with knees close to the chest while the next one leaned on the shins of the one behind. As the plane landed, the landing gear failed, and the plane crashed. The man in front of Ed was thrown against the gunnery pod behind them and had his collarbone broken. There were no other injuries, and the remainder of the crew was put on another plane and sent on their way within the hour.
Ed told of how he and the rest of the crew moved about Europe after the war ended, going from Italy to Germany and France and other places about Europe, seeing sights and waiting on discharge papers.
Upon returning to the states, he proposed to Libby, and she accepted. They were married not long after his return to the states. As a home was needed and money not easily come by, Ed cut logs from the land owned by one of his uncle’s and hauled them by mule to where a truck could take them to a sawmill. He had the logs sawn into lumber and then took them to a kiln to be dried for use in building a home. He build a small three room home just outside of Gadsden, Alabama. He took his new bride to this home, which would be home for a number of years to come. This house stand yet today, although in need of some serious repairs.
It was here near Gadsden that Ed really sprouted. He was a massively intelligent man, and was able to build items the family needed or desired when the finances did not allow for purchasing. He made his own hydraulic system for the tractor he owned, enabling him to lift lumber and materials to add roofing to his home. The same system functioned when he needed to level out land near the home for a yard, and also for the some 300 feet by 100 feet garden that he started and worked for many years, feeding not only his family, but many throughout the valley that were in need as well. He and his father installed a pump and pipeline that irrigated the garden from the nearby creek that flowed past the family land.
When the couple wanted a television, Ed returned to the nearby military surplus store and purchased an old radar screen. He took this home and built the family television from this screen and other parts he gathered. As the home was between two fairly high mountain ranges, he went onto the top of the mountain and raised an antenna, running wires from the mountain to the little house, and was able to get stations from Atlanta, Georgia and Huntsville, Alabama. As others found out about his good signal for television, they purchased signal from him, long before cable TV was a known utility.
Nearby the family home is the Guntersville Lake. Many boats use this lake for recreation. Ed and Libby with their daughter, Sherry, desired to also go boating on this lake. Again, money being a precious commodity, Ed undertook the project of building his own. As they desired a power boat, he took a Buick engine and transmission and built an inboard powered motorboat that they used from a number of years on the lake.
Ed worked many years as a radio engineer. During the war, he had been trained as the backup radio operator on the bomber, and was quite adept at handling all aspects of the systems. After the war, he became one of the main engineers for radio stations in the Huntsville area. He also obtained his own Amateur Radio License and was a long-term member of the local ham radio club in Huntsville. During these years, he also worked for companies that were under contract with NASA and was very involved with building items for NASA. Some of his pieces and inventions as well are part of the Space Station.
I know few men that have impressed me as much as Ed Yancey. He was a gentle man and a gentleman. His love for his wife of sixty-five years seemed to have not diminished even at the age of eighty-four when he passed from this life to his reward. He was a quiet spoken man, and treated all persons I saw him come into contact with respect and consideration. I wish I had known him longer. I will miss him.
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