Remembering Donald Lewis Yost, car collector, sailor, real estate broker

He co-founded Norheim & Yost, was instrumental in transforming the commercial landscape of West Berkeley, and was a bigtime “foodie” before it was hip.

July 15, 1935 – April 12, 2020

Don Yost, 84, died peacefully on April 12th due to complications from cancer. Born in San Francisco to Milton Links and Lois Lewis, Don took his stepfather’s name when his mother remarried Charlie Yost. He attended high school in Oakland and entered UC Berkeley in the 1950s, majoring in art history. Don then learned Russian to serve as an intelligence officer and translator in the Army stationed in Germany. In the early 1960s, Don became a licensed commercial real estate broker, joined the George Block Company (Oakland), and eventually co-founded his firm, Norheim & Yost (Berkeley) in 1982, where he worked until retirement in 2016.

In the mid-70s, he helped develop and manage Mariner Square (Alameda), considered a sailing hub for Northern California. In the early 80s, Don was instrumental in transforming the commercial landscape of West Berkeley, which became a thriving work-live district and popular retail destination. Don served on the West Berkeley Area Plan Committee for more than 10 years and was the mayor’s appointee to the Planning and Zoning Task Force for the city of Berkeley.

Don was blessed in many ways, from the countless friendships he made to the varied experiences he shared with close friends and family including travel; touring museums, historical landmarks, and discovering local cuisine. He could often be found with friends and colleagues taking in the latest hot spot or a favorite dive during regular 11:30 work lunches. Don was a big-time “foodie” long before it was hip.

Don was generous with his time and beloved for his infectious passion for hobbies, of which there were many. Forever curious, Don was always “all in,” enjoying the challenge of learning everything there was to know about a given topic. An early pursuit was duck decoy collecting, the latest astronomy. At the age of 84, he devoured a UC Berkeley Astronomy 101 textbook, bought a professional telescope, drove to campus and sat in on student courses.

Another passion was automobiles, started at a young age, and further kindled when his stepfather introduced him to a Mercedes 300 SL gullwing coupe. Over his lifetime he owned more than 50 cars ranging from a VW Bug to a Ford Mustang Cobra. Don was also an active member of the Oakland Lake Merritt Sailing Club and in 1967 won the Bull Ship El Toro race from Sausalito to the St. Francis Yacht Club.

Don is survived by his wife, F. Chaney Li Yost; his son, Kevin Yost (wife Michele, daughter Jenna, son Logan); daughter Kim Goddard (husband Buzz, stepchildren Ian, Nell, and Graham); the mother of his children, Hannelore Pfeifer Callon; his half-brothers Bo Links (wife Patty) and Richard Links (wife Cathryn); and Cathryn Simons from his second marriage. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to a UC Berkeley Astronomy Student Fund or Cal Performances.