By Ron Hayes
PALM BEACH — Weldon Yeager was in Michigan on business when a passing stranger gave him a seat on the Ocean Ridge Town Commission.
In the February 1990 election, both Mr. Yeager and Vera Klein, an 18-year veteran, garnered exactly 269 votes each.
To break the tie, a Boynton Beach city employee named Ken Hall, who happened to be in Town Hall at the time, was asked to pull one of two envelopes out of a blue plastic bag from the Gap store.
Hall turned his back and chose the envelope with Mr. Yeager’s name inside.
Mr. Yeager, who died April 30 at 88, went on to serve Ocean Ridge for the next six years, including two as vice mayor and one as mayor.
“He had a lot of wit,” said his widow, Beverly White Yeager. “He was smart. Everyone said he was a gentle, kind guy, and he certainly was with me.”
During his time in office, the commission hired both Bill Mathis, who served twice as town manager, and Police Chief Ed Hillery, who retired after 17 years.
“I recall him to be a very efficient commissioner who was well-respected in the community,” said longtime Town Clerk Karen Hancsak. “He was very knowledgable and was definitely an asset to the town while he served. After he moved to Palm Beach, he would periodically stop by Town Hall to say hello and it was always a pleasure to see him.”
Weldon Osborne Yeager was born July 26, 1922, in Hillsboro, Ohio. A graduate of Wayne State University, he served in the Army Air Forces during World War II.
Active in Republican politics, Mr.Yeager once served in the Michigan state Legislature and was appointed director of that state’s Workman’s Compensation Department by Gov. George Romney.
In 1994, Mr. Yeager built a 14,000-square-foot home on an ocean-to-lake lot in Manalapan, but never moved in, choosing to live in Palm Beach instead. In 1999, the home, inspired by the architecture of Villa Vizcaya in Miami, was sold to boxing promoter Don King for $7.8 million, at the time the second-highest home price ever recorded in the town.
In addition to his widow, Mr. Yeager is survived by a son, Mark Yeager; a stepson, David Gilman; three granddaughters, one great-granddaughter, and a brother, David.
A graveside service was held May 3 at Roselawn Cemetery in Tallahassee.
Memorial gifts in Mr. Yeager’s memory may be made to the Royal Poinciana Chapel, 58 Coconut Row, Palm Beach, FL 33480, or Hospice of Palm Beach County, 5300 East Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33407.