By Judy Christie
Lt. Col. Roy Yenchesky, USA (Ret), has been married for 47 years, yet offered to serve as surviving spouse liaison — a position often held by a widow or widower — when the Wichita (Kan.) Chapter of MOAA needed him nearly five years ago.
“I had been a financial advisor for eight years and helped several of my clients through the death of a loved one,” he said. When the longtime chapter surviving spouse liaison moved and after many months of not being able to find a replacement, Yenchesky spoke up and said, “I can do that.”
A Life Member of MOAA, he is driven to help by “the knowledge that our surviving spouses may need guidance through the maze of benefits they are entitled to. … It is a very complex journey, and even after five years, I am still learning.”
Using checklists, he approaches survivors in a low-key manner and takes them through what needs to be done. “Everyone deals with grief differently,” he said.
For his dedication in assisting surviving spouses in small and large ways, Yenchesky has been named chapter-level recipient of MOAA’s 2023 Surviving Spouse Liaison Excellence Award.
Appreciation for him comes from both MOAA leaders and spouses, such as Sue Tanner, The Retired Officers Wives Club president and MOAA member, who benefited from his help after her husband died.
“It seems that Roy is always searching for more ways to simplify things for spouses as they are trying to navigate the military system alone once they have lost their spouse,” Tanner said. “He has made things so much easier for not only me but also many of the other spouses.”
Lt. Col. Michael R. George, USAF (Ret), president of the Wichita Chapter, agreed.
“Roy contacts surviving spouses and families of deceased members and assists them in contacting the applicable support agencies so that benefits are not interrupted or missed. … When engaging members in conversation, his emphasis is that now is the time to take care of personal affairs. He beseeches members not to wait until there is a death to address these critical issues.”
[MORE MOAA RESOURCES: MOAA.org/Survivors]
Yenchesky served in the Army for 26 years and commanded units in Korea, Germany, and the U.S. He did a combat tour in Vietnam and trained future officers at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and in ROTC assignments. He started Junior ROTC in Wichita, now available in eight area high schools and 11 middle schools. He is treasurer and membership chair for the Badger State All Airborne Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Association and a member of the 173rd Airborne Association, AMVETS, and the American Legion.
Yenchesky centers his weekday schedule around babysitting his granddaughters, ages 6 and 3. “We play outside, build stuff with blocks, paint, color, do crafts, play family … and do a lot of reading.”
His advice for his granddaughters? Exactly what he practices as a MOAA volunteer: “Be kind.”
Judy Christie is a writer based in Colorado.
MOAA’s Surviving Spouse Corner
Hear from members of our Surviving Spouse Advisory Council and others on issues that affect you. Updated monthly.