Dr. Ronald Edward Yarbrough, Ph.D., 78, of Collinsville died on April 29, 2015 at Eunice Smith Nursing Home in Alton due to complications resulting from Alzheimer’s disease, which he was officially diagnosed with in 2010.
Visitation will be from from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, May 6 at at Lakeview Memorial Gardens in Fairview Heights. A memorial service will follow the visitation.
He was born on July 26, 1938 in Chattanooga, Tenn., to Edward Leon Yarbrough and the Margaret Bernyce Livingston. He married Rose Marie (Chiste) Somraty in 1977 at their home in Sugar Tree, located in north St. Louis, Mo. She survives.
Dr. Yarbrough was a graduate of the University of Tennessee- Knoxville, with a Ph.D. in geology.
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He began his teaching career at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) as a pioneer instructor in 1964. He worked on the Alton campus. He taught geology at SIUE for 38 years and retired in 1993 as professor emeritus of earth sciences.
The most valued award Dr. Yarbrough ever received was the SIUE First Great Teacher Award, awarded from a vote of the Southern Illinois University alumni in 1972.
He worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 17 years. He retired from the corps in 1999. He also volunteered for emergency service with the U. S. Army Corps in Mississippi following the Katrina hurricane.
He also worked with the U.S. Bureau of Mines, Twin Cities, located in Minnesota, for three years and the Illinois State Geological Survey for two summers.
Dr. Yarbrough was a registered geologist in five U.S. states: Illinois (18 years), Kentucky (16 years), Missouri (18 years), Arkansas (15 years) and Kansas (four years).
He was a member of the America Institute of Professional Geologist for 32 years and the Society of Mining Engineers for 25 years.
He and his wife created their own firm, Geo-Technical Associates (GTA), first as a sole proprietorship. They incorporated in 1984 to do consulting work for the state of Illinois and the Illinois Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund (The Fund) in Chicago. The Fund started working with Corlew Engineers in Edwardsville, and for 10 years, Dr. Yarbrough, and Phil Corlew, an engineer, partnered to begin work on the “start-up” of subsidence work for The Fund.
Dr. Yarbrough worked on coal mine subsidence problems in the metro-east for many years. He authored or co-authored more than 40 publications, most concerning coal mine subsidence and structural response to ground movements.
He was one of the geologists who assisted the Illinois General Assembly in establishing the The Fund. He had been the legal expert witness for The Fund for 10 years. He testified in about 40 legal trials and established many of the standards for cause and origin of subsidence of any type. He investigated more than 2,000 structures for foundation damage in Illinois and Kentucky. He also worked with approximately 500 structures already damaged by subsidence, many in Madison and St. Clair counties.
Dr. Yarbrough was invited to become a representative of People to People International and the American Coal Industry to the People’s Republic of China and the China Ministry of Coal Industry in the spring of 1987.
The purpose of the People to People International was “Peace through Understanding.” It was founded in 1956 by President Eisenhower to promote international understanding and friendship through education, cultural and humanitarian activities.
Dr. Yarbrough had a leave of absence from the university and taught some courses at night. He and his wife kept GTA until 1989, when events changed. Dr. Yarbrough returned to the Army Corps of Engineers full-time in 1993. He worked there, sometimes part-time, until 2000, when he retired.
In 1993, Dr. Yarbrough was awarded the Department of the Army “Commander’s Award” for Civilian Service and a promotion to GS 13 for his research work for the Bureau of Mines and Minerals. In addition, he was appointed member of the United Nations subcommittee on the utilization of coal mine waste, 1993-2002.
He was honored with the Hammer Award for Environmental Pool Management Team, which was presented to him by Vice President Al Gore in 1998.
Dr. and Mrs. Yarbrough also traveled overseas to Scotland and Poland for conferences. He also presented technical papers in many U.S. states.
Dr. Yarbrough was a passionate fisherman, with trout and bass fishing as his favorites. He taught his wife how to fish and later agreed that she could keep up with the best of them.
In addition, water sports, such as skiing and boating, were his hobby. He was a natural-born teacher and taught all of the family —who wanted to learn — how to water ski and how to fish.
The family enjoyed many good times around an outdoor fire cookout Carlyle Lake, as well Bull Shoals Lake and White River in Arkansas.
Another hobby Dr. Yarbrough enjoyed was hunting and working with his best girl, his female Irish setter, Tennessee Belle “Tennie,” to hunt for quail, doves and pheasants, and later, to hunt in Wyoming for antelope, which he would do with his buddies and his son who lived in California.
Dr. Yarbrough and his wife participated in the Washington University Memory and Aging Research Project (MAP) beginning in 2009. He made the decision to donate his brain to this research project with an eventual goal of developing effective treatments for these illnesses. In addition, the diagnostic report of the findings is provided to the next-of-kin. This is the only way that conclusive diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease can be established.
In addition to his wife, other survivors include sons, Henry Edward Yarbrough and his wife, Cathy Jean Roy, of Waterbury, Conn., and Scott Richard Yarbrough of Alton; grandchildren, Kyle Thomas Yarbrough, Kraig Michael Yarbrough of Yuba City, Calif., and Samantha Rae Yarbrough; a step-daughter, DeAnna Marie Kasich; a step-son, James John Chiste Jr.; step-grandchildren, Christina Marie Digby and David Anthony Kasich; step-great-grandchildren, Kendalyn Rose Portz and Brayden Alexander Portz.
Memorials may be made to The Rose Marie Somraty and Ronald Edward Yarbrough Endowment at SIUE-Lovejoy Library, P.O. Box 1063, c/o Kyle Moore, Edwardsville, IL 62026. Make checks payable to SIUE Foundation and write the endowment name on check.
Memorials may also be made to the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability, Geodesic Dome, located on the 90th Meridian at SIUE. Mail checks to SIUE Campus Box 1059, Edwardsville, IL 62026.