Nelson Earl “Gus” Yeager, a lifelong Toledoan who dedicated his life to Christian ministry and served youth through his faith and his work in the criminal justice system, died Oct. 6 at the Franciscan Care Center in Toledo. He was 79.
He had suffered a life-changing stroke in 2004 which made it difficult for him to use the right side of his body. He was able to remain active through rehabilitation, but his health began to decline after two recent falls, his wife, Evelyn, said.
Mr. Yeager read and annotated a new Bible every year and talked to everyone he met about Jesus. He developed a booklet called “Would You Like to Know God?” that he could hand out to people to encourage them to become Christian or deepen their faith, Mrs. Yeager said.
“Anyone who came to our house for any reason got one of those booklets,” she recalled. “He gave out hundreds and hundreds of those booklets. Some people didn’t like them, but a lot of people did.”
Mr. Yeager was especially active with youth ministry. He founded Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Toledo and once a week welcomed dozens of students into his home to talk about God and study the Bible. Later he became volunteer chaplain to UT’s football team, traveling with them and providing spiritual guidance.
Each year the team presents the “Gus Yeager Award” to a player who demonstrates spiritual qualities, Mrs. Yeager said. Many past players visited their former chaplain as his health declined, she added.
“He just had a passion for the students, that they know the truth,” she said.
Mr. Yeager also served as volunteer chaplain for the Toledo Mud Hens, though he didn’t travel with the team.
He served as a counselor and mentor in the Lucas County juvenile justice system, visiting youth in the Lucas County Juvenile Detention Center, Lucas County Youth Treatment Center, and the county jail.
He built a relationship with Robert Jobe, who was convicted of the 2007 murder of Toledo Police Detective Keith Dressel. He was 15 at the time of the crime, and Mr. Yeager attended all of the teenager’s court hearings and continued to write to him after his sentencing.
Mr. Yeager told The Blade in 2007 he was often the only familiar face in the courtroom when he attended hearings of the youth he mentored.
“If Robert Jobe would have had someone like me early on in his life, he may not have chosen to do it,” he said in the 2007 article.
Mr. Yeager helped start the Northwest Ohio Prayer Breakfast and took part in the founding of Toledo Christian Schools. He was an elder at Christian Fellowship of Tole- do and led the youth group there for 30 years. He belonged to Westgate Chapel with his wife but was also involved in First Alliance church and Washington Church.
Both of his children work full-time in ministry, something daughter Janelle Metzger attributes to the fun they had serving alongside their father. She works with Water for Ishmael, which provides services and outreach to immigrants. Her brother, Matt Yeager, works for the outreach organization Acts 2 Toledo.
“He had a lot of vision,” Mrs. Metzger said of her dad. “He was a force.”
He was born Jan. 30, 1938, in Toledo to Olive and Waldo Yeager and graduated from the University of Toledo in 1960. He first worked at the family business, a poultry and egg company founded by his father called Cortland Produce Co., which was later acquired by Seaway Food Town.
He left to work at Daniel James Insurance, which allowed him more time for ministry. He loved to read and regularly attended UT football and basketball games.
Surviving are his wife, Evelyn, whom he married July 21, 1962; daughter, Janelle Metzger; son, Matt Yeager; nine grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Thursday at Newcomer Funeral Home, southwest chapel, on Heatherdowns Boulevard. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 28 at Westgate Chapel in Toledo.
The family suggests tributes to the Gus Yeager Memorial Fund at PO Box 2842, Toledo, Ohio, 43606. Tributes will benefit both Water for Ishmael and Acts 2 Toledo.
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