We miss our kind, loving Nat Yablon: husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend, music lover, news junkie, WWII Naval Veteran, professional baseball player, and life insurance broker. He died peacefully May 14, 2018, in Houston, TX, at age 91. He missed his goal of living to 100 by just 9%. But we know he is merely on vacation until we meet again in Heaven.
Nat lived the true American love story. His dad’s (Max Yablon) family risked everything to make a better life by escaping from war-torn Poland in the 1920s. His mom’s (Anna Augustine Yablon) family did the same by escaping the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Anna was a professional Russian opera singer, news junkie, and daughter of an industrialist. Max was the son of Polish Rabbi. Max was shot while in the Polish Army and became a New York tailor and textile union representative. Max and Anna ended up in Paris, France, where they married and gave birth to Nat on April 26, 1927.
Immigrating to America Through Ellis Island
Wanting even better for their children, the Yablons immigrated through Ellis Island to Brooklyn, NY, where Nat’s sister, Lillian Yablon, was born. Nat graduated high school early just like his oldest grandchild, Natalie Yablon. And being a true patriot, 17-year-old Nat volunteered for active duty in the U.S Navy during WWII to beat the Nazis and similar fascists that ran his Jewish family out of eastern Europe and threatened his new homeland.
He often said he was a proud American and nothing else despite being an immigrant. And despite growing up with relatives who never learned English and parents whose natural languages were Yiddish, Polish, and Russian, Nat spoke impeccable English. He often corrected his young children when they said “y’all” instead of “you” or “you all.”
Baseball Was Very, Very Good to Nat (and Cynthia)
Nat did not make his high school baseball team, but he perfected his baseball skills in the Navy. After the war, he took a train across America and tried out for professional baseball when the majors had just 16 teams instead of the current 30 teams. For seven years, he landed spots with the Peoria Chiefs, the Macon Peaches, and others who were affiliates of the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Washington Senators, and Cleveland Indians. For his career statistics, see https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=yablon001nat#. The press called him “Frenchy,” which stuck with our wonderful Georgia relatives.
While in Macon, Georgia, Frenchy gained fame and long-lasting love. As for fame, he pitched against Hall of Famer Hammerin’ Hank Aaron who was in Jacksonville in the Sally League. Frenchy would laugh and say, “I threw ’em (baseballs), and Hank would knock ’em over the fence.” Decades later, youngest son Mark got Frenchy and Hank, who was the homerun king at the time, together at a Houston baseball card show. Both players reminisced and autographed a comparison essay Mark had written in school.
But it was in Macon where Nat found everlasting love on a blind date: a Georgia peach named Cynthia Powell. Cynthia’s younger sister Evelyn needed to double date with Cynthia—Cynthia had the car. So Nat, who did not party (according to Cynthia), was hanging out at the ball players’ Macon hotel after a game and was an easy setup for a last-minute double-date.
But not so fast. It took six weeks before Nat could land their first kiss. Cynthia was a proper Primitive Baptist with strict rules. Nat may have been a carpetbagger from the north, but he was no fool. So he followed her lead (often). He also felt she would never marry a poor ball player. So he took a job at a clothing store and moved home to Brooklyn to save money.
There was no social media, no email, and no free long-distance calling then. But as Nat did when he was away from his parents, he wrote Cynthia a letter every day. After Cynthia earned her Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Mercer University, she joined the Navy. Maybe a coincidence, but officer training happened to be near Brooklyn. And unlike her reserved social graces, Cynthia contacted Nat while on leave. Before the weekend ended, he proposed, and she accepted.
More delays. Being the deep south in 1956, they could not find a church or a synagogue to marry in. They also could not find a rabbi or a traditional preacher to officiate. So Cynthia’s minister friend, William Saloom, married them in Macon’s Sidney Lanier Cottage. But, thankfully, both sets of parents welcomed the marriage. Nat and Cynthia frolicked through life for 61 years of wedded bliss.
Pasadena, Texas circa 1967
The clothing business sent them up and down the east coast and the south. Steins Clothing finally brought them to Pasadena, TX, in 1967. Nat saw industry changes that made life financially challenging and personally difficult for the family man he was, so he again built a new career as a life insurance broker. He had great success helping people plan their futures.
With his new freedom, he taught his two sons and their friends baseball (although Bill was a better ballplayer and student!), love of family, admiration of free enterprise, and respect for country.
He also loved music, particularly Frank Sinatra, Glen Miller, and Dean Martin. The family brought his old-style record-cassette player to Memorial Hermann Hospital Texas Medical Center. The kind nurses took good care of him and helped ensure he could enjoy his music during his last month on earth. As for news, he always read the Houston Chronicle and Pasadena Citizen and watched multiple news stations to get the real story.
Despite not going to college, Nat made it clear in his usual unassuming way that Bill and Mark would go to college. As Nat’s parents said to him, Nat wanted a better life for his sons and grandchildren. Bill earned a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from Texas A&M and an M.B.A. from Loyola University-Baltimore Maryland. Mark followed with a B.B.A. in business-journalism. In the last few years, Nat would say he wanted to live long enough to see Mark graduate law school. Two days before Nat passed, Mark earned his J.D. from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.
God blessed us by not taking Nat in a tragic accident or by ravaging cancer. Open heart surgery for a valve replacement and a double by-pass, prostate cancer, back surgery, cellulitis, COPD, congestive heart failure, stints, pneumonia, and a dozen falls with nothing more than a large bump on his head didn't take him out. Looks like know how to slide into home came in handy. Parkinson's significantly affected him lately and his April 10, 2018, bleeding stroke was the final straw.
Friends and family who knew Nat say he was one of the most likable and agreeable people one could ever meet. His family and friends dearly miss him!
Nat is survived by his adoring wife, Cynthia Powell Yablon of Pasadena, TX; sons, Mark Powell Yablon of McKinney, TX, and William “Bill” Benjamin Yablon and his wife Mindy Herman of Pasadena, MD; sister Lillian Yablon of CT, Cousin Rose Axelson of FL; grandchildren, Natalie Yablon of Dallas, TX, Taylor Kothe of MD, Caroline Yablon of McKinney, TX, Reagan Yablon of McKinney, TX, and Lillian “Lilly” Yablon of McKinney, TX; and numerous nephews, nieces, and in-laws.
Instead of flowers, feel free to donate to Nat’s favorite charities: Jewish War Veterans of the United States http://www.jwv.org/, The American Legion https://www.legion.org/, American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/, and Houston Area Parkinson Society https://www.hapsonline.org/.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.