Extraordinary Life of an Extraordinary Lady



















Yeshim Yonter

May 25, 1941 - August 22, 2008

Yeshim’s story, as told by her soul-mate:

She was warm, sweet, lovable, funny and witty with an ever present smile in her eyes; she’d light up any room she entered, pleasant, friendly, sometimes a little girl, but a strong woman inside her, protect the weak, stand up to the bully, helping hand to the needy. She was my soul mate, owner of my heart, light of my days, glow of my nights, my princess, my little girl, my best friend, my love.

Yeshim was born in the coastal city of Antalya in Southern Turkey. Her father, Osman Bedi Usta, was a Civil Engineer and also highly placed Government official. Her mother, Melahat Usta, was a school teacher. She grew up in Ankara, capital of Turkey with her mom and dad and three sisters, she was number two. She completed her education at the University of Ankara with a degree in Arts.

We have met in 1962 on Valentine’s Day, February 14. It was only inevitable that we would spent our lives together. We married each other on February 20, 1963. We have made Houston, Texas our home since 1972.

We have raised two sons. Samuel and Edward. Both are lawyers. Sam is married to Katie. They have two children, Nicholas Osman "Nic" and Victoria Ayse "Tori," 17 and 14. Eddie is married to Simge. She is a medical doctor. They have a daughter, Alisa Ece. She is 3.5 years old (as of February 2011).

I am Michael Akin Yonter born and raised in Ankara and I am a graduate of Middle East Technical University and University of Houston. I have worked in the Oil & Gas industry for 45 years as a Mechanical Design Engineer.

Yeshim’s business life started in the early 80’s in New Orleans. She joined Mary Kay Cosmetics and quickly rose to become a Sales Director and drove a pink Mary Kay car for many years. We returned to Houston in 1991 and she left all that back in New Orleans. She had another calling. 

Yeshim became a volunteer to help cancer patients and worked at MD Anderson Cancer Center for over a decade. She sat with the families holding their hands when their loved ones were in surgery. She cooked their favorite meals, arranged low-cost housing for out-of-towners, she took them shopping, organized parties at the Rotary House and at our home. She started the Rotary Nite at Rotary House. But more than anything, she gave them a reason to have joy, a reason to smile, a reason to feel alive in the midst of all their suffering. There’d be a couple in the corner with sadness in his face, tears in her eyes. She’d go sit with them, embrace them with her sweet, warm voice. Before you know the sadness would disappear, tears dry, and they’d be smiling. She had such a special touch.

Eight years ago, she joined the Rotary Club of Houston; one of the biggest clubs in the country, and Rotary was never the same. She received many awards and standing ovations for her outstanding service and community work. Also introduced 63 new members to her club. Never been done before, anywhere!  

Yeshim was a renowned poet in Turkey with two books of poetry to her credit. Her first book climbed to #1 spot in best seller list in four weeks. Her second won the first prize at the book fair where it was first introduced.

In 1999, one year before she joined the Rotary, Yeshim founded Cancer Survivors’ Fund to help young cancer survivors to attend college, to counsel and motivate them and urged them to become volunteers themselves. Help them to realize their hopes and dreams. The proceeds from the sales of her poetry books became the seed money for the organization.

Our first survivor, Umut Unver was a high school student. He lost his leg to cancer. He was devastated, did not want to live at all. Yeshim would not have any of that. We purchased a prosthetic leg for him and Yeshim took him under her wings and brought him back to be a strong, proud young man standing tall. He was two years behind in school. But he got his GED, enrolled in Houston Community College. Next year he was inducted to the National Honor Society, the year after he was at University of Texas studying Electrical Engineering. He graduated at the top of his class. He is working for INTEL now.

We awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to young cancer survivors. Success stories multiplied. We now have 14 graduates, and 70 students attending college not only in Houston, and not only in Texas, but all across the United States transforming themselves from surviving to thriving. Just three weeks before Yeshim passed, we also opened up in Canada.

Yeshim has touched the lives of hundreds of families.  They say that it is not as important how you live, but the “life footprint,” the legacy you leave behind.  This organization that fits her heart and life so much will continue to accomplish its goals and continue to touch lives. This is Yeshim’s legacy! Yeshim trusted her banner to me and I will continue her work for the rest of my days.

















  Copyright © 2008-2011 Michael A. Yonter