Remembering Joe Yaver

Before the Spark museum was even an idea, there was a little store front on Railroad Avenue known as the Bellingham Antique Radio Museum. Joe Yaver, with characteristic determination and heart, was seminal in getting that collection its non-profit status, and setting in motion a chain of events that turned a private collection into a community treasure.  Joe was part of a dynamic trio consisting of Jon Winter, Paul Tholfson, and himself.  “Joe always felt that the Museum was a very important educational tool for the community. That’s what drove him,” says Jon Winter, Museum co-founder and long time friend. Joe’s dedication and vision for the future came with him, years later, when he became a member of the Board for the SPARK Museum.

From the very beginning, before we were us, Joe was invaluable. “He was a leader, a person with a vision and lots of great ideas,” Says Arlie Norman, SPARK’s Board Chair.

Right to left Bill McClosky, Jeff Margdis, Jonathan Winter, Pat Gallery, Paul Tolfsen, Joe Yaver, and Paul Neidenhour. Picture taken circa 1995 at the Bellingham Antique Radio Museum on Railroad Ave.

Those ideas not only enriched the Spark Museum, but other organizations and causes as well. Joe is well known as the person largely responsible for bringing SPIE (spell out full name) to Bellingham and served as their executive director from1969 to 1993. “He had a knack for seeing the potential in almost anything and turning that potential into a powerful reality,” says Jon Winter. “Something he did for both SPIE and SPARK.”

Joe was also involved in making sure Bellingham’s green spaces were funded and maintained around town. He believed in progress as well as preservation.“A balance he struck beautifully,” said Jon Winter.

“Joe was a volunteer and community voice until the day he passed” says Gil Lund, Joe’s neighbor and fellow SPARK Board Member .  In addition to his great service to his community Joe was known for his kindness.  “Everyone should admire how gracious and open he was to all his neighbors,” says Lund. Joe continues to be an inspiration to us all.

Many of the staff and volunteers find we miss the small kindnesses Joe was known for. Always positive and always a kind word. Anne Bargetz, SPARK’s Education Director, fondly remembers how he would go out of is way if he saw her to simply say “You’re doing fine. We all think you are doing a fine job.”

Joe Yaver remained an inspiration and a force to be reckoned with his entire life, right to the end. “That’s what makes it hard to accept his passing,” said John Jenkins. “He was always a soft-spoken ball of fire coming down the hallway.”

The Spark Museum, all those who work and volunteer, who visit and learn, owe Joe Yaver a debt of gratitude. He’s part of this building and part of the wonderful activities that take place in it. We are honored to carry-on in the spirit that Joe intended. From of us at the Spark Museum,  to the Yaver Family, we are sorry for your loss.