Vivian Vincent Yeager - daughter of William Harvey and Florence Vincent Yeager - was born in Forty Fort, Pennsylvania. Her father was a successful department store owner and the family lived in a large home located at 51 Yeager Avenue.
With the loss of her father’s business during the Depression, Vivian and her family moved in 1931 to Washington, D.C. where she attended Powell Elementary, MacFarland Junior High and Central High Schools and where her theatrical talents blossomed. During her time at Central, she was one of four group leaders who directed, produced and acted in the school dramatic association’s “One Play a Month” program and where she received awards throughout 1936 for best character acting. Vivian played the leads in the “Spring Plays” and monthly assembly plays, and upon graduation, was awarded the Silver Alumni Medal for dramatics. Among her numerous activities at this 3000+ student high school, Vivian participated on student council and was a member of the National Honor Society as well as an active Girl Scout and Sea Scout.
During undergrad at American University, Vivian expanded her theatrical repertoire by participating in all plays produced there during her four years and by playing all female leads during her last two years. Her other activities spanned a wide spectrum and included, among others, membership in Sigma Phi Delta and Kappa Delta sororities, the yearbook and newspaper, the senior women’s honorary society Cap & Gown, and the only girl chosen from her school for Who’s Who in American Universities & Colleges. Having received a full graduate scholarship from the University of Wisconsin, Vivian continued her studies by earning a master’s degree in speech and by completing all resident requirements for a doctorate in personnel. During this period she also worked as a projectionist showing educational films to departing soldiers — a dangerous job reserved only for men until wartime. Vivian was one of the first two women in the U.S. to be trained to operate the carbon ark projectors!
Moving to New York City to pursue her acting career, Vivian played numerous roles at the Barbizon Plaza Theatre, Playhouse des Artistes, Gellendre Studios, Manhattan Television Players, Greenwich Mews Players and Improvisation Theatre while working at Saks Fifth Avenue “in order to eat!” Vivian later became a traveling director with Empire Producing Company which required that she go to six different cities and states in five months. At each location she was responsible for casting shows of at least 100 people, selling and producing advertising (46 ads per show), running baby contests, soliciting prizes from merchants (26 per show), bossing tickets, teaching chorus routines and specialty numbers, doing the actors’ makeup, costumes and lighting - literally putting on the entire production in three weeks time! This exciting period of her life was the basis for many stories in her later years.
Also included in her theatrical pursuits was the acceptance of a contract for “the lead” role in two plays in Hollywood. Though she completed the “run” of the first play, she never received payment as she was called home to help her ailing parents and was unable to finish the contract.
Between all of the theater gigs, Vivian worked many temporary and full-time jobs with Aetna Casualty & Surety Co, Julius Garfinckel & Co, Marjorie Webster Junior College and the government printing office — all the while hunting for a job that would provide a pension. Finally, the American Automobile Association hired her as an editorial assistant and, in less than two years, promoted her to the position of assistant editor and supervisor. Continuing to rise in the organization, Vivian became a Senior Editor in several departments in addition to handling the editing contract for the National Geographic Society which had been arranged by the AAA. Retiring from “Triple A” when the company headquarters moved to Florida, Vivian settled into a more laid-back lifestyle in her dream townhouse in Annandale — with her desired pension!!
Three F’s really describe Vivian — Faith, Family and Fun! Vivian was firm in her faith. She had read the entire Bible several times and could quote it at a second’s notice in a discussion. In addition, she experienced a deep and devout prayer life — she definitely had a “direct line upstairs!” As long as she was able, she attended Hamline Methodist Church in Washington, DC and then, starting in 1975, Fairlington Methodist in Arlington. The 2nd F — Family — was everything to Vivian. She remained with her Mom after her Daddy died; she planned annual vacations for her Mother and herself all over the U.S. as well as to Canada, Nova Scotia, and the Bahamas. She kept up a steady stream of correspondence with all of the extended family and compiled huge scrapbooks with their photos and replies. As for Fun . . . . Vivian was the “fun-loving aunt” who was always ready to play with her nieces and nephews. The boundless energy she displayed — from the time she taught dancing at 15 years of age, to riding horseback with the guys at Fort Myer after high school dismissed early on Fridays, to walking 6 miles home from work in a blizzard after waiting a couple of hours for the non appearing bus, to the worn out teens she took on a sightseeing spree in D.C.— will be remembered well. This energy stood her in good stead for the majority of her 99 1/2 years, and as Vivian, herself, often said — she considered herself to be “so blessed.”
Vivian was pre-deceased by her parents and her sister, Florence Yeager Emerson. She is survived by her niece, Joan Emerson Shoemaker (Francis) and her nephew, Benjamin Emerson (Nancy), and several great and great-great nieces and nephews.
A graveside service will be conducted at Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C. on February 22, 2020 at 2:00. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to your favorite charity.
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