SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Little League International mourns the passing on Aug. 20 of Dr. Robert Yasui, who was the Little League Baseball World Series physician for more than 50 years until his retirement a few years ago.
“Dr. Yasui was an outstanding physician during his many decades of service to Little League and the greater Williamsport community,” Stephen D. Keener, president and CEO of Little League Baseball and Softball. “But more than that, Dr. Yasui was a great husband, father, and grandfather, as well as a good and faithful friend to all who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Phyllis, and the entire Yasui family.”
When Yasui was a student at the University of Oregon at the start of World War II, his family was forced to abandon their home and were interned by the U.S. government at a camp in California. The family lost most of their belongings, and Yasui was expelled from the university.
But they refused to be bitter.
“It does not do any good to hold a grudge,” he said in an interview with Little League International several years ago. “I loved this country then, and I love it now.”
“All of us at Little League who knew Dr. Yasui are richer for it,” Keener said. “He was a man whose anger would have been justified against those who wronged him and his family. Instead, he showed not only forgiveness, but was a peaceful man who worked tirelessly to make his community and the world a better place.”
Yasui, a former long-time Williamsport resident, died peacefully at Cathedral Village in Philadelphia, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old and celebrating 60 years of marriage to his beloved wife.
Yasui was born in Mosier, Ore., and raised in nearby Hood River by Masuo and Shidzuyo Yasui, immigrants from Japan. His eight siblings included Minoru Yasui, who became a noted civil rights leader.
Robert Yasui came to Williamsport to serve his medical residency in the late 1940s and met his wife, who was in nursing school. After he experienced the prejudices aimed at Japanese Americans during the World War II period, her family and local residents embraced and befriended him, creating a warm and welcoming community where he could develop his career and raise his family.
Yasui was a respected surgeon who saw thousands of patients during the 50-year span of his practice. He also served on numerous local boards and civic organizations, and as the sports physician for both the Williamsport School District and Lycoming College. During the fall it was not unusual for “Dr. Bob” to be on the sidelines of two or three football games a week. Every August one could find Dr. and Mrs. Yasui in the dugout of the Little League World Series, where they took care of the international teams for over 40 years.
Yasui’s love of sports could also be witnessed at the Faxon Bowling Lanes, the tennis courts, the golf links, hunting, fishing and canoeing on Loyalsock Creek, and as he jogged through the Grampian Hills. On Sundays, the Yasuis were often at Pine Street United Methodist Church, where they were devoted life-long members. Dr. Yasui commissioned a chimed Peace Tower on the church grounds in honor of his late parents, and to give citizens a place to rest, meditate and find solace.
In addition to his wife, Yasui is survived by five children, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Their home was always the site of family gatherings and had an “open door” policy to friends and acquaintances. It was not uncommon to find a crowd around the dinner table on any given night. No matter how hectic his schedule might be, his first priority was always his family, and he leaves them knowing they were his greatest treasure.
Services are being arranged and will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Phyllis Yasui Endowed Scholarship at Lycoming College: Lycoming College Gift Specialist, Memo: Phyllis L. Yasui Scholarship, Campus Box 165, 700 College Place, Williamsport, PA 17701. Contributions may also be made directly to Pine Street United Methodist Church.