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"YAR" 2003 Obituary


YAREMA o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-11 published
Husband, wife found dead in their car kilometres from home
By Erin CONWAY- SMITH, Thursday, December 11, 2003 - Page A18
A couple who vanished a week ago were found dead in their car yesterday a few kilometres west of their Etobicoke home. The husband was still behind the wheel and his wife was in the passenger seat.
Toronto Police had issued a provincewide alert for Steve YAREMA, 82, and his wife Tekla, 78, after they disappeared last Thursday without contacting their two daughters or long-time neighbours. Police called their behaviour unusual and were particularly concerned because Mr. YAREMA had a heart ailment and had left his medication at home.
The couple's car was found yesterday morning at the edge of a soccer field, deep in a ravine behind a Slovenian nursing home in south Etobicoke near Highway 427.The blue Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme appeared to have broken through a thicket, plunged down a steep hill and somehow avoided hitting a cluster of tall trees before coming to rest at the far side of the field.
A nursing-home staff member discovered the car and called police, Detective Nelson ANDREW said. Forensic experts and accident reconstruction specialists were dispatched to determine how the couple died.
Last night, police had not released the details of what had happened and Det. ANDREW would not say whether foul play is suspected in the case.
"We're not ruling anything out at this point," he said, adding that autopsies will likely be performed today.
Long-time residents of Lillibet Road, the YAREMAs were described by neighbours as kind and dignified people.
After hearing the couple were missing, neighbours began keeping an eye out for them.
"We were all keeping watch on the house," said Natalie CHYRSKY, 48, a neighbour who has known the YAREMAs for more that 15 years. "Waiting to see that blue car come rolling in."
She said it was very difficult to learn that the car had been found only a few short kilometres from the their home.
Mr. YAREMA took great pride in his 1995 Oldsmobile, prizing the mobility and independence it afforded him and his wife in their later years, Ms. CHYRSKY said.
Although his health problems had escalated last summer, the couple were still able to live in their home and take good care of the property, she said.
"I don't think Mr. YAREMA liked the idea of an old-folks home. He was very proud, very independent," Ms. CHYRSKY said.
"After being married for so long, they really looked out for each other."
Mr. YAREMA was a retired construction supervisor and Mrs. YAREMA was a homemaker. Like Ms. CHYRSKY and several other neighbours, both were of Ukrainian heritage.
Family was very important to the YAREMAs.
The two daughters lived nearby and the couple had several grandchildren, Ms. CHYRSKY said.
The YAREMAs loved tending their perennial flower garden and their huge vegetable garden and every summer would take Ms. CHYRSKY a basket of tomatoes, fresh off the vine.
"They really lived for their garden," she said.

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YAREMA o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-12 published
A tragic last drive for a car lover and his wife
By Christie BLATCHFORD, Friday, December 12, 2003 - Page A1
Toronto -- At the beginning of October, Stella ANDERSON took her dad to get his driver's licence renewed: He was turning 82, and Ontario law calls for seniors to be tested every two years after their 80th birthdays. So they'd been through it before, but it didn't make it any easier.
"It's so traumatic for these seniors," she said last night, "a waiting room filled with these nervous old people. But he passed, without his glasses. It was pretty amazing. And happy? This was a guy who has been driving since the early fifties, when a lot of people didn't even have cars."
Steve YAREMA always drove with his right arm, Mrs. ANDERSON said with a catch in her throat -- the other out the window, perfecting his perpetual driver's tan. For years, because he loved to drive and because in his job he got a new company car every two years, he was pretty much the neighbourhood chauffeur.
That Mr. YAREMA, and his wife of more than 50 years, Tekla, died in their car seems particularly cruel. As Mrs. ANDERSON's husband, Lance, put it last night, referring to his father-in-law's war years in his native Ukraine, "He made it through Stalin and Hitler but not through the streets of Etobicoke."
Mr. and Mrs. YAREMA -- she was 78 -- went missing last Thursday. They were found six days later in the blue 1995 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that was Mr. YAREMA's last car; it was spotted by a soccer field not far from the couple's neat-as-a-pin bungalow.
Toronto police now believe that the YAREMAs somehow lost their bearings, and ended up where they did, the car travelling through the bushes, down a hill, and coming to a stop by the soccer field.
It was clear that Mr. YAREMA had tried to back the Cutlass out. It was neither badly damaged nor stuck, but it appears that in the anxiety of the moment, he suffered a fatal heart attack: He'd had an arrhythmia this summer. Mrs. YAREMA had glaucoma, and may have passed out or been knocked out when the car went out of control: In any case, she stayed with her husband, and died of hypothermia.
He worked for Dufferin Construction, in the days when the company did many of the major road projects in the Toronto area, and it seems in retrospect Mr. YAREMA's whole working life was tied up with highways and paving:
He was the superintendent for the 400 Highway project that went north from the city; he was the boss for the airport, back when it was called Malton; his last big job was Canada's Wonderland.
He had the sort of real, visceral connection to the city as a living, changing beast that only those in the building business have.
Mrs. ANDERSON, who spent an awful day yesterday, "picking out two of everything" for the coming double funeral, was last night beating herself up a little.
"Who's the one who took him to get his licence renewed?" she said. "You know, shoulda, woulda, coulda." If only she'd been home that Thursday at noon, when her parents phoned. If only she and her sister Irene had got her folks OnStar (the on-board system which locates vehicles and allows its operators to talk to motorists in distress).
I told her not to feel guilty, and meant it: There is no one who loves his car as much as an old man, or an old woman.
I had one of each once -- my own parents -- and I know what the car meant to them, and it was a hell of a lot more than it means to most of the rest of us.
They may write songs about teenagers and their cars, but they could write grateful odes about the elderly and theirs.
My father always named his: There was Cleverly (a Ford of some sort, blue, I think); Handsomely (a Mustang). The last one he owned, which he bought when still in relatively good health but obviously knowing it wasn't going to last, he called with great amusement, Finally.
He loved Finally the most, I think. It was a big sedan-type car, also blue, and he was able to drive it almost until he died, in 1986. My mother, who died almost two years ago, was not so lucky: She had to give up hers (and yes, it was still Finally) about two years before her death.
She had been diagnosed with emphysema, and put on oxygen 24 hours a day, and as portable as her traveller was, and as adept as she became, she couldn't manage it and the wheel.
She'd always been a nervous if excellent driver, and only ever ventured out within about a two-mile radius of her apartment anyway, and had all sorts of self-imposed rules: She wouldn't drive after dark; she wouldn't drive in traffic; she wouldn't go on highways. And she depended a lot on me, in any case, so stupidly, I didn't anticipate what an enormous loss it would be.
It knocked the stuffing out of her. She stalled as long as she could, finally selling Finally in exchange for a charitable receipt, and giving up her parking spot. She was depressed for months, and really never recovered. Even for my clingy, dependent mom, who phoned me a couple of times a day, who only ever drove to the Dominion and the drugstore, the car was a symbol of her independence and pride.
Steve YAREMA was the same, Mrs. ANDERSON said. He and her mom only ever did a little circuit of doctors, banks, and grocery stores. Once in a while, they'd venture over to the Cloverdale Mall area -- not so far from where they were discovered two days ago -- and she figures they might have been heading there or to a nearby supermarket.
"When I realized they were late coming home," she said last night, "I thought, 'I'm making them get a brand-new car' ", as she had thought about before, maybe with OnStar. But the mileage on the Cutlass was ridiculously low, because they really never went anywhere.
The YAREMAs were still living in their own home. Mr. YAREMA was still taking in his neighbour's garbage cans when he was feeling up to it, and they still kept the garden beautiful and the lawn trimmed. After he got out of hospital in the summer, neighbour Natalie CHYRSKY noticed that he'd get his wife mowing the lawn, but would follow behind, pointing out spots she'd missed. They had two loving daughters -- Irene would phone at least once a day, Mrs. ANDERSON at least a couple of times a week -- and five grandkids they adored.
And they were still driving. It was a lousy bit of bad luck that killed them, but they died with their hard-won pride intact. There are worse deaths.

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