May 25, 1941 -
August 22, 2008
story, as told by her soul-mate:
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.
was born in the coastal city of
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
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
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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
studying Electrical Engineering. He graduated at the top of his
class. He is working for INTEL now.
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.