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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dave Yakuboff – town official, family man, community advocate, cigar aficionado – remembered at Tuesday funeral

MERRIMACK – A man whose love for cigars ranked a close third behind his love for his family and community, Dave Yakuboff Sr. probably never imagined the day would come that he’d willingly give away every stogie in his house.

But that day did come, on a Fourth of July more than a dozen years ago, when Yakuboff lost what seemed a sure bet: That longtime friend Darryl Rose couldn’t possibly score a ringer on his last toss in a very close game of horseshoes. ...

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MERRIMACK – A man whose love for cigars ranked a close third behind his love for his family and community, Dave Yakuboff Sr. probably never imagined the day would come that he’d willingly give away every stogie in his house.

But that day did come, on a Fourth of July more than a dozen years ago, when Yakuboff lost what seemed a sure bet: That longtime friend Darryl Rose couldn’t possibly score a ringer on his last toss in a very close game of horseshoes.

Tuesday morning, Rose was one of nearly 200 family members, friends and associates of Yakuboff who gathered at Our Lady of Mercy Church to remember the Merrimack Town Council chairman and popular businessman and community advocate who collapsed and died June 11 at his Deerwood Drive home,.

Although transferring his entire stock of beloved cigars to Rose likely pained Yakuboff greatly, he rejected Rose’s offer to call off the wager. “Nope. A bet’s a bet,” Rose remembers him saying.

Yakuboff was already celebrating his team’s victory, Rose recalled, even though Rose had one toss remaining in the neck-and-neck match. “Dave was feeling pretty confident,” he said, noting how, when it came to horseshoes, his friend outclassed him considerably.

Lo and behold, Rose said, “something magical happened,” and his toss clanked down on Yakuboff’s horseshoe for the winning ringer.

“I never saw Paul so excited. He came running out of the house with an arm load of cigars,” Rose said to laughs, referring to one of Yakuboff’s brothers.

Mourners alternately laughed and wiped away tears during the 75-minute service, especially as Rose spun his “old days” tales and the Rev. Paul Bouchard interspersed praise for Yakuboff’s solid character and love of humanity with scripture readings and prayers for him and his extended family.

Yakuboff, 59 years old and a Merrimack resident for 32 years, battled declining health for some time, family members said. His son, David Jr., said his father’s health issues stemmed from exposure to hazardous chemicals while he was serving with the Navy. He served eight years of active duty, split between attachment to two aircraft carriers and teaching electronic warfare classes while stationed in Virginia Beach.

“He’d been getting different kinds of treatment,” the younger Yukaboff said Tuesday after his father’s service. He said his father ultimately died of a hemorrhage related to his lengthy health battles.

Merrimack Town Hall closed Tuesday morning for Yakuboff’s services while flags on public buildings flew at half-staff.

Following the church ceremony and a brief graveside service at Last Rest Cemetery, family and friends drove south on Daniel Webster Highway for a post-service gathering at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post – passing, along the way, All Basics Stove Shop, the business Yakuboff founded in 1986.

The shop, closed Tuesday in honor of its longtime proprietor, will continue on as the family business it became over the years, Yakuboff Jr. said.

“We’ll offer all the same stuff we always have, and will do everything we’ve always done,” he said. He and his two sisters and an uncle have been working there for years and intend to move forward without missing a beat.

Yakuboff Jr. said the outpouring of support since his father’s death has been incredible. He cited the VFW’s offer of using its hall for a post-funeral get-together and encouragement from Rose, whose company, Energex, is a major supplier of pellet fuel to All Basics. Hearth and Home Technology, whose products All Basics carries, was a source of comfort.

Rose described Yakuboff as a “brilliant businessman who always seemed two steps ahead of the competition” and who rarely, if ever, made a bad decision.

Although health struggles dogged his friend and associate for years, Rose said it never prevented him from “living life to its fullest.

“Dave likely had an empty bucket list,” Rose said, adding that even as Yakuboff’s health worsened, he made every Town Council meeting and kept pace with his business and growing family.

“The loves of his life were his grandchildren, for sure,” said fellow Town Council member Finlay Rothhaus. He remembered how happy Yakuboff was as grandchild after grandchild came along, and how extra happy he was when number 10 was a boy.

“He had nine girls, and finally a boy,” Rothhaus said with a laugh. A second boy followed, bringing to 11 the grandchildren Yakuboff doted over.

“We became a little family, almost,” Rothhaus added, referring to the Town Council. “No matter what side of an issue Dave was on, I enjoyed very much serving with him.”

Bouchard cited Yakuboff’s commitment to his family and town.

“Community was very important to David. He gave of himself, continually, to his immediate family, his extended family and his community family here in Merrimack,”

Bouchard said. He called Yakuboff “a trusted leader” who “knew if the community was going to grow it would need good leadership.”

Bouchard comforted mourners, especially Yakuboff’s family, members of which took up three long rows of church pews up front, with assurance that while Yakuboff is physically no longer here, he “truly lives on” in “eternal life.”

“David is a tremendous gift to all of us,” Bouchard added. “He leaves a great legacy.”

Rose, meanwhile, shared with mourners the friendly rivalry he and Yakuboff had for decades running: Rose is a Montreal Canadiens fan, while Yakuboff, naturally, loved the Bruins.

“We bet on every game, but it wasn’t about money – it was about bragging rights,” Rose said, adding that their wager has always stood at $1.

While they settled on the first two games of this year’s Eastern Conference semifinals – the Bruins and Canadiens each won one – they hadn’t yet caught up on the rest of the series, which Montreal ended up winning in seven games.

“Yesterday I put three one-dollar bills in Dave’s coffin, for games 3, 6 and 7,” Rose said.

“A bet’s a bet.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).