Matt (Mark M.) Yannie
March 2, 1920-April 10, 2004
A Life in Sports Spans 8 Decades
Growing up in downtown Cleveland, athletics was the focus of his life, from his days in the Boy’s Department at the Central YMCA at age 7 to playing Softball with the Huff-N-Puffers well into his 80’s.
As a young man his dedication to boxing lead him to; the Golden Gloves, bouts out of state, aboard a transport ship, and shows in Hawaii where he was stationed during WWII. Upon returning, he was responsible for training numerous young amateur boxers all the way into the late 1960s. His work with youth was not limited to the boxing ring. Matt worked for the Cleveland Department of Recreation for over 25 years as a lifeguard (saving at least one life) at Cudell, Broadway, Estabrook, and St. Clair, and in other capacities, most notably in the Department’s “Special Services” under Florence Fairfax.
While in Special Services, he reached out to many “unreached” delinquents and gang members in the ‘50s and ‘60s, sometimes undercover. He got them involved in sports teams and spoke into their lives, offering athletics as an alternative to crime or a wasted life. Often times, in order to gain the youth’s attention and respect, he used his boxing skills as an “icebreaker”, by challenging a “tough” kid or two to a benevolent “lesson”.
His outspoken and caring personality, along with his great sense of humor was a perfect fit. During many of his vacations, he would volunteer his two weeks as a counselor at YMCA camps (Centerville Mills, Rolling-Y), sharing with the youngsters similar experiences that he cherished as a kid. He loved kids.
For over 50 years, he could be seen almost daily at either the handball courts of the Central Y, where he was known as a good class-B player, or at Little Met Golf Course, where he had 5 holes-in one! In Handball and golf, he was known for wagering with his opponents, often younger and less experienced than himself, in order to “make the game more interesting”.
Matt was a real character who embodied the soul of athletics in his heart.
Matt (Mark M.) Yannie died April 10th. At the age of 84.
He will be greatly missed.