Ryan Yates, of Munster, was on Earth a short time, but managed to touch so many lives and accomplish so many things in that time.
“Even though he was 19 years old, he had been to 30 states and had been to a world series. He lived a lot more in 19 years than a lot of people do in their entire lives,” said his mother, Mary Yates.
One of his friends, Tom Kim, referred to him as “the light in the world,” said his mother, who called him “an old soul” who always greeted people with a smile and a handshake or a hug.
Yates loved to travel. He visited the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Rocky Mountain National Park, 16 major league baseball stadiums, the Indianapolis 500 and saw spring training games in Florida and Arizona.
“He loved baseball,” said his mother. “He really knew the game.”
Besides baseball, Yates also enjoyed golf and was a talented singer who was in an honors chorus in middle school. He enjoyed seeing his sister, Olivia, perform with the Munster High School choir at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Yates was well-liked among his peers and coaches, playing baseball from a young age. He got to know a lot of other kids through playing with Munster Little League and Babe Ruth as well as Munster High's team. He was a 2013 Munster High graduate.
Yates was student at Purdue University Calumet Campus. Shortly after his death, his mother found an assignment for one of his classes titled Values and Ethics Activity. Some of the answers he wrote give a good sense of his character.
“What would you do if you had one year to live and were guaranteed success in whatever you attempted?” was one question to which he responded “Become a motivational speaker, just to get the message to love life and do what makes you happy.”
Another question read: “If you had unlimited time and money, what societal problem would you work to improve?” He said he’d help underprivileged people. As his greatest personal achievement he listed helping a neighbor by calling 911 when she fell off of a ladder cleaning her gutters.
Family friend Ted Poulos wrote the eulogy for Ryan, suggesting open-heart surgery at 21-months-old left him with a great appreciation for life that made him see things maturely and contributed to his kind and gentle nature.
“It’s why he seemed to have a special place for children,” Poulos wrote. “For example, on Thanksgiving last year at his house, his two little cousins cried as they were told to sit at the kids’ table. Without anyone saying a word, Ryno got up from the adults' table and sat down at the kids’ table and the little ones were overjoyed and quiet. It was those little, random acts of kindness that Ryan performed seemingly every day of his life that best define him."
His mom said the family is establishing a memorial fund in Ryan’s name that will provide scholarship money to a varsity baseball player. Donations for the fund can be forwarded to Centier Bank, c/o Mary or Fred Yates, 9716 White Oak Ave. in Munster.