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In memoriam: Jerry Yanover

In memoriam: Jerry Yanover

[photo of 1967 Queen's Liberal Club]Jerry Yanover and Peter Milliken were members of the
Liberal Club at Queen's during their undergraduate days.
In this photo from 1967, Jerry is at the far left in the
second row; Peter is in the centre in the first row.

It was my pleasure and my privilege to have known Jerry Yanover since we were in high school together in Kingston. From the time our friendship began, we both shared a love of politics and parliamentary procedure, an unusual interest for teenagers but one that proved to be a lifelong passion for both of us.

That interest brought us together, then brought us to Parliament Hill. We first came as students, walking the corridors of Centre Block and meeting politicians who merely confirmed for us that the Hill was the place to be and that someday we would be back.

Jerry worked in Ottawa before I did, serving as a parliamentary tour guide one summer, learning about the history and traditions of the House of Commons, and sharing his obvious passion for Parliament with visitors to the Buildings.

But that was not enough to satisfy his passion for politics. He returned in other summers to work for Ben Benson who was Kingston’s M.P. at the time, all the while studying at Queen’s University, where he obtained a degree in political science, after which it was back to Ottawa, and to Parliament, where he would make his professional life within the Liberal Party.

While I went into politics, Jerry always preferred to remain in the wings, honing his craft, and becoming an expert in the parliamentary and political sphere, a gifted historian and a strategist of the first water.

Over the years, Jerry became quite simply indispensable to those of us working on Parliament Hill. There are those who have called him the quintessential back-roomer, a legend, an institution. These descriptions all have merit, but they fall well short of describing the man who was Jerry Yanover.

He was also a kind and generous man, always willing to share his expertise with anyone who came to him for information or advice – journalists, parliamentary pages, legislative assistants and political leaders. He had time, energy and patience for all. I don’t think Jerry ever realized how many people he guided through the minefields of parliamentary procedure, or how many future politicians he may have created simply by sharing his love of politics with them. Certainly I was privileged to have been able to spend so much time over the years with such a knowledgeable, dedicated and generous friend.

In short, Jerry Yanover was a true Grit with true grit, and I will miss his friendship. 

[Queen's Alumni Review 2010-1 cover]