Kenneth Yeo
Kenneth Yeo

Obituary of Kenneth Yeo

Kenneth “Ken” Yeo, resident of Olympia, Washington, died April 14, 2024, after a short but ravaging illness.

He was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in1937, the elder child of Frank and Kathleen Yeo.  He grew up on the edge of the sea and learned early to love sailing – a love that he sustained all his life.

At age 16, Ken joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a Boy Entrant; then he spent the next few years completing his education and technical training as an aircraft mechanic and sheetmetal worker.  For more than two decades, he served as a senior NCO at air bases in New Zealand and around the Pacific, including Singapore and Fiji.

In 1973, while on a joint New Zealand-American military exercise in Hawaii, Ken met his future wife, Ann Friel, who was a U.S. Army nurse based in Honolulu.  After Ken returned to New Zealand, they courted mostly long distance, finally wed in Honolulu in 1974, then returned together to Wellington, New Zealand, where Ken served the last few years of his military career.

In 1977, he retired from the New Zealand military and returned with Ann to the States, where she resumed her career in the U.S. Army.  During those years, they lived in Colorado, Kentucky, Texas, and Germany.  When she retired from the Army, they agreed that Ken would decide where they moved next.  As Ann told it, Ken – the avid sailor – opened one of his sailing magazines and said, “This Puget Sound area looks good.”  The area had jobs for them both, so they moved to Olympia, Washington, in 1991; both promptly fell in love with the Pacific Northwest.

After living in this country for 18 years, Ken finally, proudly went through the process of naturalization, and became a U.S. citizen in 2005.  (He retained his New Zealand citizenship as well.)

For several decades after he left his military career, Ken continued to work in aviation, mostly at U.S. Army bases, working with helicopters.  He finally retired in 2014.  In his retirement years, he fully indulged his life-long passion of sailing – plying the waters of Puget Sound on his beloved sailboat, Blind Faith.  Ken and Ann both acknowledged that sailing was more his love than hers, but she learned how to help him with the boat, and she mastered the galley so as to feed him well when they were underway!

In 2011, Ken joined the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation (which Ann had joined a decade earlier).  The strong community, the good works, and the rational theology kept him there.

Ken was preceded in death by his parents in New Zealand, several decades earlier; also by his younger sister, Sally, in Australia in 2023.

He is survived by his wife Ann of Olympia; his sister’s sons in Australia; several generations of Yeo cousins in New Zealand and Australia; and some of his wife’s family in Virginia and Arizona.  

On Sunday June 2, 2024, at 2:30 p.m., there will be a memorial service at Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 2306 East End St. NW, Olympia, WA 98502.  The service will be accessible via Zoom at the church’s website, 

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