Dorothy Malone Yates, 95: Atlantan known for her generous spirit

Dorothy Malone Yates was known for her selfless service and love of family, but she also had a fun and competitive side.

An arts patron and avid gardener, Yates devoted her life to supporting several cultural institutions that reflected her passion for music and the environment.

She also loved fly-fishing, family sing-alongs and winning at sports and board games.

As the wife of well-known amateur golfer and civic leader Charlie Yates, who died in 2005, she supported many of the causes he championed. But she also was recognized for her own charitable activities.

“My father was very involved in the community, and my mother was there at his side in the things he was doing, but she also had a very important, independent role,” said her son Charles Yates Jr. of Atlanta. “She had a strong legacy of her own.”

Yates died Dec. 29 at her Atlanta home after brief bout with cancer. She was 95. Her memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Jan. 6 at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta.

The fourth of five children, Yates was born on Sept. 11, 1920, in Cincinnati, to James Comer Malone and Emma Josephine Kirkup Malone. When she was 6 weeks old, her family moved to Atlanta. Her passion for civic involvement was instilled early on.

Her father, president of Equifax, was active with several community organizations, as was her mother, who was one of the founding trustees of The Westminster Schools.

After graduating from North Avenue Presbyterian School, now The Westminster Schools, Yates received a degree in music and voice from Sweet Briar College in 1942.

After college she returned to Atlanta and worked at Southern Bell during World War II.

She’d heard favorable reports about Charlie Yates from her father, who occasionally played golf with the young man. They finally met at a dance. In 1944, they were married when the Navy lieutenant was home while the ship on which he was serving during World War II was being repaired.

Around this time, her love of music and the arts sparked her civic involvement.

From 1946 to 1966, she served on the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra auxiliary. Through her work with the Atlanta Junior League, she was instrumental in bringing theater and puppetry arts to children throughout the city.

In the 1960s, she served as chair of the Metropolitan Opera Guild in Atlanta and became a longtime supporter of the Atlanta Opera.

In addition to music and the arts, her other passions were gardening and the environment.

Orchids were her favorites, and her home featured an orchid greenhouse and Japanese garden.

As a founder and lifetime trustee of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Yates helped grow the garden’s membership base and start its “Forget Me Not” planned giving society. For her service, an orchard at the botanical garden was named in her honor, and she was recognized as one of the “Seeds of the Garden” at the 2011 Garden of Eden Ball.

“Her leadership was so important. She was a dignified and elegant and dear woman,” said Mary Pat Matheson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. “She and her husband left a great legacy in this community, and she will be dearly missed.”

Also active at her church, Yates brought in visitors who helped add to the membership, said the Rev. Patricia Templeton, priest at St. Dunstan’s. She sang in the choir, supported the music program and helped beautify the church grounds.

“She had a generous spirit. She took the time to get to know newer members of the church,” Templeton said. “She always had the church’s best interest at heart.”

Yates also will be remembered as a loyal friend, who regularly met with “The Friday Ladies,” a group of World War II wives who have been socializing and supporting each other for seven decades. She attended her last Friday Ladies get-together about two months before her death.

She also was proud of her children for continuing the family’s legacy of service.

“We wanted to make her proud. Her life was such a blessing,” said her daughter Sarah Sutherland of Atlanta.

In addition to her son Charles and daughter Sarah, Yates is survived by her sister Sarah M. Schulz of Marianna, Fla.; her son Comer Yates and daughter Dorothy Yates Kirkley of Atlanta, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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