Veteran honored Saturday with bridge renaming ceremony

Katelyn Waltemyer
Jackson Newspapers
Victor Yoak sat with his bridge sign after Saturday's ceremony.

Victor Yoak had no idea he would have a bridge named after him until he got to the Jackson County Courthouse lawn. His family had kept it a secret the last few months, and as of Saturday, the West Ripley Bridge is now named the U.S. Navy SK3C Victor Yoak Memorial Bridge. 

Yoak, 99, served in World War II and has remained a familiar face in Ripley. Delegate Steve Westfall (R) said about one bridge is renamed in honor of a veteran every year, but this one is different from the rest. Yoak is the first veteran in Westfall's district to attend his own bridge naming ceremony.

Westfall hands the new bridge sign to Victor Yoak.

"Every one I've ever done in the past, [the veteran has] been deceased," Westfall said. "It has to be something outstanding ... to do a living person."

During the ceremony, Yoak's daughter and son — Sandy Mathewson and David Yoak — sat on either side of him. Mathewson pulled out a tissue multiple times during the ceremony. 

"We are so blessed that daddy is still with us at 99," Mathewson said. "And for us to be able to do something for him while he's still alive ... to me that's just the greatest of honors."

Victor Yoak poses with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren Saturday.

After the ceremony was over, Victor took dozens of photos with his family and friends. With teary eyes, he said he was in disbelief that the Veterans of Foreign Wars nominated him. 

 "Oh, I just can't believe it," Yoak said. "It's an honor to have recognition."

— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.