YORK, PA. — Jean Gorman Yates ended her earthly adventures and began her spiritual journey March 30. Jean’s health had taken a sudden turn for the worse earlier in the week, and she was rushed to the hospital. Arrangements were made with hospice-care so that she could return to her apartment at Normandie Ridge, where her family gathered by her bedside to spend time saying their goodbyes and Jean was able to express her love to everyone.
Her husband John C. Yates, sisters Mary Stephenson & Evelyn Kormash preceded her in death. Jean is survived by her brother Lee Gorman and wife Dee, her three sons and daughters in law: John & Elaine; Phil & Natalie; and Dave & Lois; and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Jean began her life on February 20, 1922 in Saint Clair, Pa., in the heart of the anthracite coal region. Her parents Roy and Evelyn Gorman owned and operated a Westinghouse Appliance Store. She attended and graduated from St Clair High School in 1938. She used to experiment with cooking even as a young girl, and once served her father a baked grapefruit. He took one bite and said, "This damned grapefruit's hot!"
Jean worked at S.S. Kresge's 5 & Dime in Pottsville so she could send money to help support her sister Mary in York. Jean returned to school in St Clair to learn typing. She moved to York and lived with Mary in a rooming house for $25 a month. Money was tight and they often ate at Bear’s Café where a meal cost 35 cents.
Jean attended the Thompson Business School and landed a job at Sears in 1940 as secretary to the manager. He would call Jean into his office to dictate letters and she did not know shorthand, so she would listen carefully while pretending to take shorthand and then rush straight to her typewriter and dash off the transcript from memory. While working at Sears, she met future husband John who was in management training and she thought Yates was an odd name.
After Pearl Harbor, John enlisted with the Pennsylvania Defense Corps and attended USNR Midshipman School at Columbia University in New York. During one of Jean’s visits with John in New York at midshipman's school he proposed. They were married in his parent’s living room on June 20, 1943 with the Reverend John Yates officiating.
Jean traveled cross-country by rail to be with John in Seattle before his deployment to the Pacific. Jean stayed in Seattle for six months and this was where her love of cooking began to flourish. She cherished the Joy of Cooking as her bible. While in Seattle, she attended the Cornish School of Fine Arts. Jean worked her way through the Joy of Cooking page-by-page, preparing each recipe in the order it appeared.
Jean was able to adapt to virtually any circumstance with grace and ease. While camping on Forked Lake, N.Y., the family was inundated by Yellow Jackets that wound up in everything Jean prepared from pancakes to coffee. She didn’t bat an eye and simply strained or picked them from what was being served.
At home, Mom would look like Annie Oakley while patrolling the pond, .22-rifle in hand, to rid the area of snakes. The kids were more than a bit impressed. As she used to admonish, “I may be small, but I am mighty.”
Jean took her cooking to a higher level by opening her own business called Bright Prospects, with two partners. They offered cooking classes that were televised and popular. Decades later, it was not unusual for Jean to be stopped in the halls at Normandie Ridge by someone who fondly remembered those Cooking with Jean & Jane episodes. www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EVnocJ96QY.
Growing up with her was rich in fun, laughter, and adventure. She served as a Den Mother, taught her children the joys of cooking both at home and while camping, graciously allowed them to bring home a virtual menagerie of animals for pets, and once served as the team mascot for son John’s baseball team because she was always present. Sundays meant church, clean your room and change the bedding, and that the radio was hers for playing only classical music. In addition to exposing her family to classical music, which they did come to appreciate eventually, she instilled in them the joy of reading and tolerance for all points of view.
Jean was active in the York community as a volunteer with York Symphony, York Little Theater, Young Women’s Club, and the York Historical Society. Jean was a member of First Presbyterian Church, Country Club of York, sustaining member of the Junior League, former board member of both the YWCA and YMCA, York Literacy Council, and served as a SCORE volunteer. In the 1960’s, Jean attended York College while taking English and Creative Writing classes. Jean worked as son Dave’s editor for his CONTRACTOR Magazine columns for several years.
Her greatest joys in life were her many friends, family, grandchildren, great grandchildren, cooking, reading, and music. Jean found a way to connect with everyone she came in contact with and positively influence their lives. Everywhere she went, people knew her and loved her. It was virtually impossible to go anywhere in York and not run into someone who was either a personal friend or recognized her from the Cooking with Jean & Jane TV show.
Jean had the unique gift of making everyone feel as if they were the person she most wanted to see and talk to. She was always a lovely, kind, and happy person. Her optimism rubbed off on everyone around her, and we are all lucky to have had her in our lives and also to have had her impact on the family, which is so much better for having had her for so many years.
A celebration of Jean’s life will be held at Normandie Ridge on Monday April 21st. Details to follow. Per Jean’s wishes, memorial contributions should be donated to the Martin Memorial Library, 159 E Market St, York, Pa. 17401.