She kept her passionate opinions to herself

A true southern belle, she believed in decorum and always doing things right.

By STEPHANIE HAYES, Times Staff Writer
Published January 23, 2008

TAMPA - She never wanted to rebel. It wouldn't have been polite.

MaryAnn Yorkunas came from a family of southern belles steeped in old fashioned etiquette. Manners mattered, and on that, she never changed her mind.

"She passed down her views on being conscientious and always trying to do what's right," said her son, Peter Yorkunas. "That there is correct etiquette and things you have to do."

She lived her whole life in Tampa and went to Plant High. She associated with Palma Ceia's upper crust, but times were hard. During the Depression, she and her older sister helped support their mother.

It taught Mrs. Yorkunas self-sufficiency. She was driven to go to college and be a teacher. Her grades were high, but so was tuition.

Suddenly, a break came. A secret donor paid for her room and board at University of Tampa, her family said.

"She was always grateful to this unknown person," said Peter Yorkunas, 57. "She never really knew who it was. She didn't try. She just accepted it."

In college, she dated the football star -a 6-foot-5 Lithuanian named Al Yorkunas. They married, and in their senior year, bought a house in Palma Ceia.

She taught math at Lake Magdalene Elementary and Plant High. Her teaching years were the proudest of her life.

But eventually, her husband needed help with his advertising firm, Yorkunas Advertising. He was the creative force, and Mrs. Yorkunas was the backbone, handling the books.

She always yearned for teaching. But her husband needed her.

* * *

She was still a free thinker.

Mrs. Yorkunas was a Protestant, and her husband, who died 12 years ago, was a Catholic. She wore her favorite Bible in half and taught her son Scripture.

When he tried to coax her to California to be with his family, she wouldn't budge. She still lived in the same home she and her husband bought in college.

She kept many friends, even though she didn't like to go out. When she met someone, she'd remember him or her forever, and quiz her family: "You remember so and so, right?"

For the past few days, calls have trickled in to her home. Peter Yorkunas has had to share the news - his mother died Saturday at age 90. She broke her hip in the past year, he said, and she struggled with asthma. But until the end, her mind was sharp.

She followed the news and was a devoted Democrat. She was disillusioned with much of modern politics. Passionate opinions raged inside, but she often kept them to herself.

She didn't want to offend.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or 727 893-8857.


MaryAnn Yorkunas

Born: Nov. 14, 1917.

Died: Jan. 19, 2008.

Survivors: son, Pete Yorkunas and his wife Suzanne; grandchildren, Casey and Katarina. Predeceased by husband, Al Yorkunas.