Thomas “Tom” Lawrence Yankus, Sr.
August 5, 1923 – May 29, 2022
It Is with great sadness that we share the passing of our beloved father, grandfather, great
grandfather and World War II veteran Thomas L. Yankus, Sr. on May 29, 2022 in
Tallahassee, Florida at the amazing age of 98.
Tom was born in Queens, New York on August 5, 1923 to the late William A. Yankus and
Margaret Skroblus Yankus. He is predeceased by one brother, William Yankus.
Tom attended Andrew Jackson High School in Laurelton, NY and worked for Sperry
Gyroscope prior to enlisting in the US Army Air Corp.
Tom proudly joined the Air Corp in December 1942 at the age of 19 to serve his country
during WW II. He was assigned to the Eighth Air Force’s 95th Bomb Group, 335th Bomb
Squadron as a B-17 Flying Fortress radio operator / top turret gunner. His plane was shot
down on the crew’s fourth mission on March 4, 1944 on its return from the first daylight
raid over Berlin, Germany. The plane crashed after all crew parachuted out in occupied
France. Once on the ground Tom was able to evade capture and joined forces with the
“French Underground” where he was able to move civilians and soldiers alike through
occupied territory to safety. Tom and other evaders hid and lived in a secret camp in the
Freteval Forest, France. They were liberated in August 1944.
Upon his arrival back to the states he was awarded many metals for heroism including the
Purple Heart, European Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. In 2014
Tom was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal for his bravery. This is the highest
award for military and civilian merits awarded for service to France. He was a proud
member of the 95th Bomb Group and of the Air Force Escape and Evasion Society
After the war Tom married his high school sweetheart Eileen Murray in New York on April
21, 1945. Eileen wore a wedding dress that was sewn with a piece of the very same
parachute that saved Tom’s life.
During their lives together he and Eileen were involved in several business ventures. They
began by owning a paint and decorating store on Long Island, New York. Their next
adventure led them to be the builders, owners and operators of Fairview Acres, a motel in
the Adirondacks’ mountains. They moved to St. Petersburg, Florida in 1956 in search of a
milder climate. There Tom owned a residential home building business. In the 1960’s Tom
went to work for Eveland Brother’s General Contractors and ended his career with Rowe
and Newberry General Contractors where he built many commercial buildings that still
grace St. Petersburg. After retirement Tom and Eileen moved to Palm Bay, Florida. Eileen
sadly passed in February 1996.
In 1999 Tom met Vivian Harris who became his companion for the next 21 years. During
this time Tom was able to return to France where he and Vivian were greeted by many of
the people he had worked with while Tom was with the French Underground. Vivian
passed in February 2022.
Survivors include his son, Thomas L. Yankus, Jr. (Annie), daughter, Jane Yankus Collins
(Steven) and daughter in law, Kathleen Aerts.
Grandchildren include Jennifer Yankus Bonnell (Brad), Shelley Yankus Colston (Jon),
Sara Yankus Lovell (Wood), Jon Yankus, Tanya Collins de Leon (Abe), and Lindsay
Collins Whelan (Mike). Tom is also survived by nine great grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on June 16th at Bevis Funeral Home in Tallahassee,
Florida with interment to follow on June 17th at the Florida National Cemetery, Bushnell,
Florida. Todd Wahlquist with Bevis Funeral Home (850-385-2193, www.bevisfh.com) is
assisting the family with their arrangements.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made in Tom’s memory to Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice,
8060 Spyglass Hill Road, Melbourne, FL 32940.
Dad, Grandpa, Great Grandpa, Tom – We will never forget you. You are and will always be