Famed EO Irvin Yackness Dies in Michigan at Age of 90
Irvin H. Yackness, the executive officer and general counsel of the Building Industry Association of Southeast Michigan since 1951, died on July 15 at the age of 90 from a pneumonia-related illness at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
In 1984, he was inducted into the NAHB National Housing Hall of Fame, the first executive officer of a home builders association to receive this honor. He was inducted into his local association’s hall of fame in 2001.
During his more than 50-year tenure with his local association, Yackness worked to broaden home building opportunities by contesting excessive zoning and code regulations, land use impediments and discriminatory taxes.
In a U.S. Supreme Court case, he successfully brought the reversal of an illegal charge for connecting into the municipal sewer systems, resulting in a refund of more than $6 million to the area’s builders.
“Irv Yackness unselfishly served as an adviser, counselor, friend and mentor to generations of individuals involved in the building industry,” said Bob Jones, vice president/secretary of NAHB and a past president of the BIA of Southeast Michigan. “He provided advice and support in everything from personal recommendations to the most complex issues facing our industry, as well as thoughtful and caring philosophical advice.”
Jones said that Yackness once told them that he and his wife, June, never had children of their own and that he considered the members of his association as his children and his family. “We have lost one of our industry’s true giants and each of us has lost a second father,” said Jones. “We will all miss him very much.”
Yackness was on the board of directors of both NAHB and the Michigan Association of Home Builders. He served as president of the NAHB Executive Officers Council and received the Seldon Hale Award for career achievement from that group.
Before being hired by the BIA to negotiate collective bargaining agreements with the major building trade unions, Yackness served as a deck officer with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during World War II.
He regarded Victoria Park as one of his proudest accomplishments. When it opened in 1992, it was the first new housing community in Detroit in more than 35 years.
In 2001, Yackness secured enactment of legislation that made the state’s administration of home buyer complaints more equitable and expeditious and eliminated unnecessary and costly restrictions and requirements by local building departments.
Yackness played tennis and was skipper to a crew of 10 on his 40-foot racing sloop in the Detroit Regional Yacht-Racing Association regattas on Lake St. Clair. He was a past commodore of the Great Lakes Yacht Club and won a first-place trophy in the highly competitive Bay View/Port Huron/Mackinac Race.
In memory of his wife of 46 years, Dr. June Goldin Yackness, who died in 2000, he established a charitable and educational foundation within the BIA and donated the flagstaff that flies the stars and stripes at the association’s headquarters in Farmington Hills.
Yackness is survived by sister-in-law Ann Zirulnik and her husband, Sidney; brother-in-law Lee Goldin and his wife, Joyce; sister-in-law Edith Goldin; and many nieces and nephews, including BIA Past President Bernard Glieberman and his wife, Sandee.
Those wishing to honor the memory of Irvin Yackness can send a memorial tribute to: BIA Charitable & Educational Foundation; Irvin H. Yackness and June G. Yackness Fund; 30375 Northwestern Hwy., Suite 100; Farmington Hills, Mich. 48334.
To make a contribution online, click here.