Mitch Van Yahres Dies

Lloyd Snook writes:

Former Delegate Mitchell Van Yahres of Charlottesville died tonight. He was 81. Mitch served in the House of Delegates from 1981 to 2005.
Mitch had been diagnosed with lung cancer about three months ago. He had undergone surgery on Tuesday, February 5, and had come through the surgery without incident. However, this evening at about 6 PM, he developed a blood clot and died rather suddenly.

This is going to be the biggest funeral that the town has seen since Emily Couric’s death in 2001. I’m sorry I don’t have anything more useful to write at the moment. I’m a bit stunned. Hopefully some folks will provide some remembrances of Mitch here.

02/11 Update: The funeral will be held at 2pm on Friday the 15th at the Church of the Incarnation. Friends are asked “to make a healthy and significant contribution to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama.”

13 thoughts on “Mitch Van Yahres Dies”

  1. Mitch Van Yahres WAS a great man. I remember the last time I saw him before I moved he was sitting at the downtown library. Mitch you will be missed by everybody including me and you were a class act!

  2. Former Charlottesville Mayor and longtime Del. Mitchell Van Yahres died Friday of complications from surgery he underwent Tuesday for lung cancer.

    Van Yahres, 81, served 24 years in the House of Delegates representing Charlottesville and Albemarle County through 2005.

    One of his rare political traits was a willingness to carry an unpopular cause for many years if he believed in it strongly enough.

    Thanks to his efforts, in 2001 Virginia became the first state to express its profound regret for the practice of involuntary sterilization of thousands of poor people and mental patients. California and other states have followed suit with official apologies.

    The forced sterilizations of 8,000 Virginians were carried out over several generations into the 1960s at state hospitals through belief in eugenics, a discarded theory and false science that taught racial purity and was used in the 1920s to reclassify the state’s Native American population as black. Thirty states and Nazi Germany had adopted eugenics laws, some patterned after Virginia’s racial purity laws in effect from 1924 into the 1970s.

    Van Yahres tried for many years to convince officials that industrial hemp would be a profitable and valuable replacement crop for tobacco farmers. The federal government’s zero tolerance policy for crops related to marijuana proved a higher barrier than even a determined arborist could hurdle.

    He fought for local farmers markets across the state and carried a public defender office bill for five years in a row to establish better legal representation for indigent criminal defendants. The first four years the measure passed the legislature and was vetoed by then-Gov. George Allen, but the fifth year it was signed into law in 1998 by then-Gov. Jim Gilmore.

    No legislator spent more time and effort than Van Yahres trying to convince General Assembly colleagues to try to live for two weeks on the amount of money the poor get for food stamps.

    A joyful warrior who marched to the beat of his own drummer, he will be missed.

  3. Damn. He and Creigh pretty much got my political career started. Truly a great man and a deeply concerned public official. It’s a shame we don’t have more like him. Thankfully it was sudden.

  4. Mitch was just a good man. He cared about workers, the poor, the disadvantaged. I recall sitting in his beautiful office at the GA and chatting with him. He was actually a politician who threw open his door here and in Richmond. Always a handshake and smile when I would see him on the mall downtown.
    He was a statesman in every sense of the word.
    This is a huge loss for the community and of course his family.
    RIP Mitch.

  5. Boy, I will miss him in so many ways. I was fortunate to be able to get to know him these past two years and he made a deep positive impact on my life. My best to all his family and friends.

  6. Truly a statesman in every sense of the word. Virginia was lucky to have him, but those of us in Charlottesville were particularly blessed to be able to claim him as one of our own.

    Bon voyage, Mitch… and many heartfelt thanks for all you did to make this a better, more civilized place.

  7. It is a great loss.

    I did not know him personally, but sometimes our paths would cross when I was out for my morning run, and he was out for his walk, and he always had a friendly ‘hello.’

  8. A friend of mine “foolishly” ran against Mitch and the local democratic machine back in the 80’s. Of course he lost. Since then, though my admiration for Mitch increased over the years. I even told him so one year when he was door-to-door campaigning. He will be missed.

  9. Favorite memory of Mitch Van Yahres:

    We were both circulating at a local Dem function, when he jokingly noted that we had more ex-mayors in attendance than anywhere else in the state. Then he asked me if I was going to be next to run for Council. I said “Nope. You couldn’t get me to run.” He replied, “Why not? Everyone else here has.”

  10. I just checked this website for the first time in a while, and my heart sank at the headline. During my relatively short time down there in Charlottesville, I had the pleasure of crossing paths with Mr. Van Yahres on several occasions. He was just an overall lovely person — the definition of a good guy. Kind, respectful, articulate, friendly. I’m sure he’ll be missed terribly and remembered fondly. Best wishes of comfort to his family and his many, many friends.

  11. Van Yahres “endorses” Obama after death

    It’s a bit unusual for a political figure to endorse a candidate after dying, but that’s almost what happened in Virginia today.

    Former Del. Mitchell Van Yahres, a Democrat and former Charlottesville mayor, died Friday after complications from surgery for lung cancer.

    His family put the following note in Mitch’s obituary today in the newspaper: “His friends, who nearly included everyone who met him, are asked, in lieu of expenditures on flowers and the like, to make a healthy and significant contribution to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama or, if they insist, the charity of their choice.”

    I knew Mitch well and discussed his support of Obama with him last month, but this still is a surprising endorsement from a guy who slipped up to heaven three days ago.

  12. Our families have known each other some 33 years. Their daughter and I became friends when we were 11 years old. Aside from the love I have for my parents, Mitch ranks up there next in line for that amount of admiration. He was genuine to his core and strong in his convictions. I appreciated his sound council and quick-witted sense of humor. If you had the opportunity to know Mitch you were his friend. For those of us who had that pleasure of knowing him, he is sorely missed; fond memories of Mitch will linger forever in our hearts.

  13. Delegate Mitchell Van Yahres, a Charlottesville political icon, passed from complications after surgery for lung cancer at Martha Jeffereson Hospital, 02/08/08. If anything, Mitch Van Yahres, was a man of fairness and integrity. He also was a visionary. His vote along with my cousin, Charles Barbour, forever changed Charlottesville development history. Voting to “brick in” downtown Main Street to create a Mall showed vision and intelligence. As a legislator, he was innovative and somewhat novel as he found himself in the proverbial “Lions Den” of the General Assembly filled with lawyers – Mitch being a very renown tree surgeon.
    In my opinion, the residents of this city were truly blessed to have him as their representative in the House of Delegates where he served six consecutive terms. As someone else has said, we will not being seeing “Mitch on the Mall” unless we look for his eternal footprints.
    I extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to his family and friends, as I will miss him…

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