Sunday, October 30, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Irene Yourist, Young-At-Heart Seattle Performer, Dies At 78

A young-at-heart blonde - in black picture-frame hat, gown and feather boa - beams out from the old publicity photo. She has "entertainer" written all over her.

Irene Yourist, longtime Seattle performer, died Oct. 22. She was 78.

She kept her "blond-bombshell" figure and melodious voice to the end.

Her daughter, Sharon Webb of Seattle, said, "If anything got out of shape, she would go to any extent to fix it, believe me."

Her son, Harry Yourist of Seattle, said, "Her main thing in life was to make people happy.

"She really enjoyed bringing joy, a little goodness. She went to convalescent homes, taught hula and enjoyed working with older people, getting them to create some goal or some meaning."

Her daughter said her mother tailored her show to please any crowd.

"It didn't matter if it was young or old people, she could do country- western, Hawaiian, old 1930s songs, Klondike music, anything.

"She had recently been learning and teaching her senior-citizen group country line-dancing. They loved it; it was great. I'd come over to her house and say, `Hey, I gotta learn this one,' because all my friends are into country music."

Mrs. Yourist, a native of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, moved with her family to Seattle in 1916, graduated from Roosevelt High School and sang at local nightclubs before traveling to California and New York to sing with big bands.

She met her husband, professional wrestler Abe Yourist, in 1935 in Oakland, Calif., when he went to hear her at a club.

They married in 1937 and traveled all over the U.S. for his wrestling matches and her singing dates.

She entertained servicemen in USO shows, where she was known as Irene Gay, "The Blond Bombshell" or "Blond Bomber."

The Yourists settled in Seattle in the late 1940s.

Neighbor Kay Mills said Mrs. Yourist was always organizing shows.

"At Haller Lake Community Club, we put on so many shows. She wrote them, she produced them, she directed them."

Her son said there was always a piano and organ in the house. His mother practiced daily and was always working up new songs.

Mrs. Yourist loved cats and had several. One appeared the day after Abe Yourist died in November 1993. She took it as a sign and named it Abe.

Grandson Robert Yourist remembers that Mrs. Yourist wore muu-muus all the time. "And she had a fancy for the Hawaiian. She went to Hawaii twice a year, I think. She was really into teaching senior citizens the hula."

Her sister, Florence Rupp of Snohomish, said, "I got a card from someone saying Irene was so happy making people happy. What more can anybody ask for?"

Other survivors include her brother, Clifford McCammon of Bothell, and her grandchildren, Rainee Tubbs and Kristopher Kimberley of Seattle.

Services have been held. Remembrances may be sent to the American Heart Association.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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