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Growing Up In Proctor: Uncle Yontz and Aunt Pearl

By Gary Eller - | Jul 29, 2021

My Uncle Yontz aka Yonce, Yonsell Jay Eller (1902-1982), and aunt Pearl Amanda (Briggs) Eller (1906-1978) lived in Proctor almost all of their adult life. Uncle Yontz was the third of his siblings, all born at the Eller homestead on Newman Ridge. Aunt Pearl was born and raised a few miles away at the Briggs farm on Palmer Ridge. Yontz and Pearl had three children, all older than me: Joanne, Jim, and Jay. The youngest, Jay, became very close to my Dad and our family. We saw Jay a lot at our place, partly because he courted and married Mary Hohman who grew up further out Proctor on a farm near St. Joe.

As described in an earlier chapter, my elderly grandmother Eller lived with Yontz part of the time as her care was shared around several of her adult children. And so, we were at Uncle Yontz and Aunt Pearl’s place often.

As were his other male siblings, Uncle Yontz seemed to me to be a quiet man who was short on small talk, especially with kids. He earned a living with his large trucks and bulldozer. He passed this interest along to Jim and Jay, who became successful businessmen in earth moving and trucking endeavors. One of my most vividly recalled experiences from my youth happened at Uncle Yontz’s big garage. It was a bitterly cold winter night and he was having trouble starting his diesel bulldozer.

He solved the problem by piling some boards under the engine, pouring on some fuel, and throwing on a match. After about ten minutes, the engine had heated up enough to started with no trouble. I now know this is an old diesel mechanic’s trick but it sure made an impression on me.

Uncle Yontz ran for, was elected, and served as sheriff of Wetzel County from 1969 to 1973, so he must have been popular around the county. It was a bit unusual at the time but he never wore a gun as sheriff. I was told that he believed that gun-totin’ was a job for deputies and his job was to keep a situation from getting to a point where guns were necessary. He was ahead of his time. I’ll tell more about Sheriff Yontz in a later chapter.

I remember sitting many evenings in Aunt Pearl’s kitchen with my Mom. Pearl had been an elementary school teacher and she recognized that I liked to work with numbers.

To keep me occupied, she would make up addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication exercises for me to work. It worked every time. Yep, I was a nerd from the start!