MILTON — A Korean War veteran and co-founder of the Milton Harvest Festival has passed away.
John Yingling, who was involved for decades with WMLP and WVLY radio stations, died Tuesday, June 23. He was 87.
The Standard-Journal has featured Yingling several times, including 2012 when he became the final co-founder of the Milton Harvest Festival to retire from the committee.
In that article, Yingling said the only time up until that point in which a Harvest Festival parade was held which he didn’t serve as the announcer was 1986. In that year, he was the grand marshal.
In addition to retiring from the committee, Yingling also retired as parade announcer. He continued to attend the festivities yearly after retiring from his involvement with the festival.
“I hope it built, in those (early) days, and still does, pride in Milton,” Yingling said, of the festival. “It was something Milton had exclusively and people came from miles and miles to be a part of.”
After Milton was devastated by flooding in 1972 and 1975, Yingling recalled discussing with businessman John Everitt ideas to revitalize the community.
“We had to do something,” Yingling said. “At that time, there were very few festivals in the area. We thought we should do something to give the town something bright and exciting.”
The Milton Harvest Festival came about as a result of those discussions.
Sue Rearick, who now serves as festival chair, said this week Yingling was always a source of encouragement to her.
As a change in Harvest Festival leadership was occurring several years ago, Rearick recalled Yingling stating that if no one took over leadership of the festival it would cease to exist. That’s when she stepped up to serve.
“Every year, before the Harvest Festival started, (Yingling) would come to headquarters, at the YMCA, and make sure I was alright and that things were OK,” she said. “He said ‘Sue, I know it’s OK because you can do this.’”
Those words of encouragement always meant a lot to Rearick.
“John was always that person that would say ‘you can do this,’” she said.
In addition to his involvement with the Harvest Festival, Yingling was active in numerous aspects of the community.
He served on Milton Borough Council for more than 12 years, and on the boards of the Milton and Central PA chambers of commerce.
Milton Mayor Ed Nelson describes Yingling as “an important member of the community.”
“He was good for the council when he was on,” Nelson said. “He was one of several that always stepped up to the plate.”
When flooding swept through the area in 1995 and 1996, Nelson said Yingling was helpful in getting pertinent emergency information on the radio. He was also known for his broadcasting during the 1972 Agnes flood.
“John was doing all the broadcasting,” Nelson said. “We had messaging to get out. He was a valuable helper in this community.”
Yingling also served on the Union County Veterans Fourth of July Parade and Cavalcade of Champions committees. He served alongside Graham Showalter on those committees.
“He was instrumental in the success of the Union County Veterans Fourth of July parade,” Showalter said, of Yingling. “He probably did as much for Lewisburg as he did for Milton. He loved Milton, he loved Lewisburg.”
He said Yingling became known as the voice of the Cavalcade of Champions, which was held over a 10-year period to support the Union County Veterans Fourth of July Parade.
“He loved drum and bugle corps,” Showalter said, of Yingling. “He knew cavalcade inside and out.”
During the Cavalcade of Champions, Showalter said Yingling’s professionalism was always evident.
“Either the first or second year of the cavalcade, it rained its brains out,” Showalter said.
The rain poured into the press box at the Bucknell University stadium, where the event was held. In spite of the rain, Yingling never wavered in his role of serving as the announcer for the event.
“He was one tough cookie,” Showalter said. “He was really well disciplined. When he had something to do, he made sure he accomplished it.”
He also reflected on one busy day in which the veterans parade was held in the morning, followed by the Cavalcade of Champions in the evening.
“I loved, in those days, doing that stuff,” Showalter said. “You know you could always count on (Yingling) to come through, no matter what the adversity was. He was there to make things happen.”
In a 2018 article which appeared in The Standard-Journal, it was noted that Yingling enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1950. He served in Korea from February 1952 to the spring of 1953.
Yingling vividly recalled landing in Seoul, South Korea.
“We landed early evening and they put us in an Army truck,” he said. “Here I am a kid, and we see these fires burning alongside the road. They take us into Kimpoo (Airfield). They told us in the event of an air-raid warning to jump into these slit trenches. The air-raid went off and I jumped into a trench, and two people jumped right on top of me.”
Yingling was an Air Force photographer, taking everything from reconnaissance photos to snapshots of celebrities and dignitaries.
Among those he photographed were President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Debbie Reynolds.
In the 2018 article, Yingling was quick to give credit to combat soldiers.
“They are the heroes, the men who fought, were wounded and died,” he said.
Yingling’s obituary notes that he and his wife, Ruth, moved to Milton in 1956. He was involved with WMLP and WVLY radio until 2005.
Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 30, at Shaw Funeral Home, 400 N. Front St., Milton, with a funeral service to follow at 11. Burial with military honors will be held in Milton Cemetery.