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It's the Stuff of Romance Novels - Kay and Gene Yenger

It's the Stuff of Romance Novels - Kay and Gene Yenger

His family moves from the big city (Sacramento) and he meets "the girl next door. They met in the town she was born in - Clovis, California.

First neighbors, then friends, soon sweethearts and yes, marriage and a family. And for 53 years Katherine (Kay)and Joseph (Gene) Yenger remained sweethearts.

"As teenagers, we [my sister Joan Stanton and I] really couldn't appreciate that our parents were so much in love. But as adults we realized how sweet it all was," said daughter Karen Norman.

While they were still newlyweds, war broke out and Gene answered the call to serve his country. While he was away in the Navy, Kay finished her bachelor's degree in Education from Fresno State College.

She then moved to Stratford to start her career as an elementary school teacher. Kay was hired by the Central Union School District where she joined the Mathematics Department. For more than 30 years Kay brought math alive for her young students. Although she retired in 1981, she continued to work as a volunteer teacher for Mary Immaculate Queen, Stratford Elementary and Neutra Elementary schools.

"She absolutely loved working with young people," said Karen.

In 1945, Gene returned from World War II and joined his wife in Stratford, taking a job as an automotive mechanic. He later applied his knowledge and experience to open his own store - Stratford Auto Supply. Sharing his wife's strong belief in the power of education, he joined both the Lemoore-Avenal High School District and the West Hills Community College Boards.

Gene was active in community affairs. He was a founding member of the Tulare-Kings Allstar Football Central Game Committee and from 1966 to 1978, he held the position of Kings County Supervisor from 1966 to 1978.

Kay and Gene chose to live, work, and raise their family in Stratford. They truly loved the community, believing when it came to towns, smaller was always better. Stratford is full of hard working people that shared their beliefs and work ethic. They made many friends, became active members of St. Peter's Catholic Church and joined several local organizations. Through their hard work and commitment, they made their community a better place for everyone's children, including their own.

"Our parents were extremely 'community minded,'" Karen added.

The Yengers appreciated and enjoyed the outdoors, especially the mountains and rural areas. Whether it was attending a local high school football game or vacationing in one of their favorite places, like Alaska or Hawaii, they always tried to be surrounded by nature. Summer trips to Huntington Lake and winter trips to Cayucos were family favorites. They also traveled abroad to places like Italy, from where Kay's grandparents came, and although every trip was special, their hearts remained in Kings County.br>
In 1993, four days after Christmas, Gene passed away at the age of 75. Kay followed in 2006, at 85 years young.

"Our parents really valued education. They believed it was important for everyone," said Karen.

With a gift of $25,000, their daughters funded the Kay and Gene Yenger Endowed Scholarship at Lemoore, through the West Hills Community College Foundation. They now honor their parents in perpetuity -two extraordinary people, who devoted themselves to inspiring and enriching the lives of young people. The endowment will support one annual scholarship of $1,000. Applicants must be a full-time registered second-year student at West Hills College Lemoore and maintain a 3.0 GPA (grade point average).

Karen summed up her feelings, "We thought the world of them. We will always miss them and our lives will never be the same." And with this endowment bearing their name, many other lives will, no doubt, be changed for the better.