by Alexander Ivanoff
Ron Yee, ERA second vice president, corresponding secretary, and co-editor of the “Commuter and Transit News” column for The Bulletin, died on Oct. 29 in New York City. He was 64.
His wife Lily said the cause was carcinoma.
Ron joined the ERA (#5196) in July 1976. He was not only a sharp photographer, but also a fantastic writer. In addition to his work on The Bulletin, Ron contributed several articles to Headlights, including a railfan’s cruise of the British Isles for the upcoming 2021 issue. His emails were often lengthy but with a purpose: to serve as a travel guide for those who followed. In no small way was Ron a pathfinder. Even in his final days Ron accepted his fate in stride.
Ron was married to Lily for 37 years. She often accompanied him on his railfan excursions, getting to see the sights along the way and making friends with all of Ron’s friends and spouses. Over the years, Lily has become a beloved part of the ERA family.
To say that Ron lived life to the fullest would be an understatement. On ERA trips and conventions he was always the first one out the door and the last one back, maximizing time to get the best photos possible. It was not unusual for Ron to skip meals during a convention to do some photo shooting.
Ron and Lily took several cruises together. Ron was a Trekkie and he and Lily frequently went on Star Trek-themed cruises. They were also on a cruise of the Western Pacific aboard the Diamond Princess when multiple cases of COVID-19 were detected. While the pandemic raged, Ron made the best of a dire situation, intimately documenting his and Lily’s experience through the month-long quarantine and emergency evacuation aboard Kalitta Air flight 581 to Lackland AFB in Texas.
Outside of his love for his wife Lily and railroads, the other passion in Ron’s life was baseball. Ron was a season ticket holder for the New York Mets and was a fan no matter how terrible the team was. Often, Ron would mention that he was sending an email while in front of the TV watching a game.
Ronald J.F. Yee was born on April 5, 1957 in New York City to Walter and Betty Yee. His love of trains was sparked when he was just two after his father gave him a Lionel O-Gauge train set for Christmas. By the time he entered first grade, his teachers noticed that Ron was having problems focusing in class, instead paying attention to the IRT Flushing Line that ran outside his classroom. He was writing down car numbers, making note of when trains passed by and noting which track they were on. Ron’s mother furthered his interest in trains when she patiently waited with him to spot the “Bluebird” R-33s on their first day of revenue service in October 1963.
That early encouragement lead Ron to become a successful railroad manager. He obtained a chemistry degree from Queens College and a master’s degree in transportation planning and engineering from Polytechnic University in Brooklyn (now NYU Tandon School of Engineering). After a short stint at a transportation engineering consulting firm, Ron was hired by the fledgling Metro-North in 1983 shortly after Conrail’s Metropolitan Division operations were taken over by the MTA. He worked his way up from supervisor of passenger checkers, to operations planning, manager of the crew dispatching center and finally on-board services officer before retiring in 2013. From 2004–2006, Ron helped plan and operate five ERA fan trips over Metro-North territory. The farewell excursions for the FL-9s and the ACMU cars were also his initiatives.
Ron’s passing is a deep loss for his friends, family and the ERA. He will be dearly missed.