Mary Yates, 93, co-founder of company that represents supply manufacturers

November 16, 1998|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

Mary C. Yates: The headline for the obituary for Mary C. Yates in yesterday's editions incorrectly put Mrs. Yates' age at 93. She was 95. The Sun regrets the error.

In a day when it was rare for women to work outside the home, Mary C. Yates was telling contractors how to fix leaking water pumps and running the internal operations of her family's burgeoning business.

She worked 12-hour days, six days a week, four or five hours after church on Sundays until she retired -- reluctantly -- at age 88.


Mrs. Yates, who for more than 35 years was the matriarch of a company that represents manufacturers by selling their heating, plumbing and air conditioning supplies, died of respiratory failure Saturday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She was 95.

The former Mary Christine Hink, a native of Annapolis, and her late husband, Nimrod Yates, started N. H. Yates & Co. in the pantry of their home in 1949. The company, now located in Cockeysville, has 50 employees and branches in Laurel, Richmond and Roanoke, Va., and eastern Pennsylvania.

Their four sons and four grandsons are involved with the company.

"She didn't belong to any ladies clubs or anything. She just lived in that office," said her son, James H. Yates of Phoenix, whose son succeeded him as the company's president.

In 1949, when Nimrod Yates wanted to start a business, the couple pushed aside the refrigerator in the pantry of their home south of Roland Park and put in a little desk and telephone for Mr. Yates. Mrs. Yates sat at the kitchen table with a typewriter.

The company expanded to the basement and then to a storefront on Cold Spring Lane. Mary Yates handled internal matters, acting as secretary, bookkeeper, accountant, custodian, salesperson, trouble-shooter, pacifier and confidante.

"We had a telephone operator, and [Mary Yates] did everything else clerical, including chasing the salesmen and making sure they'd do what they were supposed to do," said James Yates, who was one of those salesmen. "If you didn't come back with an order, Mom wanted to know why."

When Nimrod Yates died in 1955, Mrs. Yates became chairwoman of the company.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Broadmead retirement community, 13801 York Road, Cockeysville.

In addition to James Yates, Mrs. Yates is survived by three other sons: Donald W. Yates and Richard A. Yates, both of Timonium, and Robert S. Yates of Towson; a brother, Henry M. Hink of Port Washington, N.Y.; 12 grandchildren; 25 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/16/98

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