Roger D. Yachetti
April 14, 1940 – September 16, 2018
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” – Shannon Alder
Inspiring people lead by example. Their passion, intelligence, and leadership reflected not just through their own achievements, but also through the people that they have motivated and inspired along the way.
The late Roger Yachetti was an inspiration to so many in his profession and his community. I would like to tell you about how I was personally inspired by Roger; a legendary lawyer and proud Hamiltonian who set the greatest example of all – how to be a great person.
As a lawyer, Roger inspired me…
When I started out many years ago as an articling student in Hamilton, it didn’t take long for me to recognize which lawyers were the “heavy hitters” of the profession. Students and younger lawyers aspired to be like their senior role models. We admired them, learned from them, and let’s face it; we were in awe of them, so also a little intimidated.
A few of these revered senior counsellors took the time to get to know us “juniors” by name, and were there to help augment our newly minted legal minds, by sharing their own experiences. Roger was one of those inspiring legal leaders who influenced many a new lawyer’s legal career and life path.
But it wasn’t just the honours and awards that Roger attained (there were many), or the positions that he held within the profession (of which there were also many) that impressed me. It was the way that Roger was chosen that inspired me. For many of his awards and positions were bestowed upon him by his own colleagues.
For example, the legal profession in this Province, approximately 40,000 lawyers, is self-governed by an organization called “The Law Society of Ontario” (LSO), which is governed by a panel known as Benchers (comprised of Committees of Elected, Lay, and Life Benchers). The Benchers are elected by their peers in a province-wide election every four years.
Roger won the Bencher election four times over the course of sixteen years, and thereafter was named a “Life Bencher”. In fact, Roger was a Bencher of the Law Society when I started practicing many years ago, and he was active in the Law Society until the end of his life.
A few years after I began my career as a lawyer in Hamilton, Roger won the Emilius Irving Award, the highest honour given out by the Hamilton Law Association. This achievement also came about as a result of Roger being nominated and chosen by his fellow lawyers.
So, here’s the thing: Roger was known to be a lion in the courtroom. He was a fierce fighter, and the toughest of opponents. As a younger lawyer, I didn’t understand how he could be ferociously adversarial in courts and tribunals, and yet still be so liked by his colleagues!
As I gained some experience, I came to realize that Roger was respected by his fellow lawyers for his courtroom skills, but liked because he was “tough but never uncivil”.
And he was always there to lend a helping hand to his colleagues. He trained and mentored many outstanding lawyers, several of whom stayed with him in his firm with others going on to become judges and prominent lawyers and leaders in the profession.
But it wasn’t just the lawyers in his own firm that he helped. His colleagues will tell you that even though he was an extremely busy and important man, he was never too busy to listen to colleagues seeking help, and many called him for advice on legal and ethical issues.
As a life-long Hamiltonian, Roger inspired me…
Hamilton lawyer Dermot Nolan described Roger as “home grown… a through and through quintessential Hamiltonian”.
And what could be more Hamiltonian than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats?
Did you know that our team (and reportedly even the whole CFL league) might not be around today if it weren’t for Roger, who stepped in, at the request of Hamilton Mayor, Bob Morrow, when the Tiger-Cats franchise was in dire financial trouble?
From 1992 to 1995, Roger was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tiger-Cats, spearheading the fundraising campaign to keep the team financially afloat. It is said that the whole Canadian Football League could have folded had Roger not stepped in and rallied a group of community leaders to work at saving the Hamilton team.
It is no secret that I am a tried and true Hamilton Tiger-Cats fan. I have a very personal connection to the team. My father, Albert Santucci, played for Hamilton and so did my uncle, Pat Santucci. Moreover, my brother Angelo played for the Tiger-Cats and subsequently the Edmonton Eskimos during their reign.
But it wasn’t just Hamilton sports that Roger influenced in a profound way. He was also an angel to the arts, serving as President of the Board of Directors of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, and said to be one of its “rescuers”.
Roger was so involved with the Hamilton community, offering up not just his legal skills and business acumen, but also a host of other talents, some of which were highly creative.
For instance, Roger was a great actor, starring in several shows at Theatre Aquarius, staged by The Hamilton Lawyers’ Club, raising money for the theatre and the Hamilton Lawyers’ Legacy for Children fund.
A few years ago, I was asked to be a dancer in a fundraiser called “Dancing With the Hamilton Stars”. While I wanted to help out with this worthy endeavour, raising money to support the enhancement of the pain services at Hamilton Health Sciences, I was extremely nervous since I had no experience as a dancer. I thought about Roger and those other lawyers getting up on that stage and acting in front of an audience, and it inspired me to make the leap, and I am so glad that I did.
Roger was inducted into the Hamilton Gallery of Distinction, which is a recognition for outstanding Hamilton citizens, along with legendary Hamiltonians including Lincoln Alexander.
Roger was also very active in local politics and a faithful parishioner of Our Lady of the Assumption Church.
Always interested in business, his love of coffee shops (where he met with friends, family, and colleagues) resulted in the acquisition of a Tim Horton’s franchise, or two, still run by the family today.
Being a lawyer is sometimes more than a full-time job. And owning your own firm is a big step. Prior to starting my firm, I had never owned a business before. I wondered how it would be possible, but lawyers like Roger inspired me to go out and build a business in the downtown core of the city that I love.
Roger’s wife Cleda said it best in a quote to the Hamilton Spectator:
"He had the heart of a lion. And he always had a heart for the underdog. He loved Hamilton. In spades. I think what he was most proud of was that so many of the third generation of people who immigrated to Brightside became professionals, because of their forebears who came here for the opportunity."
As an Italian-Canadian, Roger inspired me…
Another way that Roger was so inspiring to me on a personal level relates to the fact that we share an Italo-Canadian heritage. And it was through men like Roger that I learned to take great pride in my ancestry. His friend and fellow lawyer Dermot Nolan said, “He loved this city. He loved this country. He loved his Italian heritage.”
David Smye, a colleague and good friend of Roger’s, wrote a Tribute to him in our Hamilton Lawyer Magazine, telling those who didn’t already know that Roger was one of four siblings born to second-generation Italian-Canadians. His father’s auto mechanic shop and family home were initially located in the Burlington Street and Gage Avenue area. It was there that he learned to speak fluent Italian and “the language of the working man”.
This was yet another community within our great city in which Roger was active and for which he was recognized. The Sons of Italy named him Italo-Canadian citizen of the Year in 1995. And in 2011 he was awarded the Business Excellence Award by the Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association of Hamilton Halton.
"He was a big supporter of Festitalia and all things in the Italian community here," recalls Tony Perri, Ward 3-4 trustee for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. "He loved Hamilton. Aside from being a giant in the legal profession, he was just a good person." (Hamilton Spectator)
As a family-focused individual, Roger inspired me…
And last but certainly not least, Roger inspired me to recognize the importance of family.
Law is a stressful career, demanding much time and focus from those who are called to represent others in their fight for justice. It takes a special spouse and family to support a great man like Roger, providing him with the love and comfort of home from which to go out and help others.
His friends and colleagues heard much about Roger’s strong and supportive family, which David Smye described as his refuge from all the storms of his practice and business life. In fact, Roger himself gave thanks for them on many occasions publicly and talked much about them privately.
When a Mohawk College student interviewed Roger in 2012 about his career, he told the young woman that in the early days he worked long hours and days at the office, but he was now working mostly Monday to Friday, nine to five so that he could spend more quality time with his family. When asked what motivated him, Roger answered that it was the desire to see that his family was well looked after.
Roger inspired me to honour the relationships in my life that provide me with the love and support which allow me to devote a great deal of my time and energy to helping people navigate the legal system.
Carve Your Name on Hearts
Roger practiced law until the very end of his life. During the interview with the Mohawk student in 2012, Roger expressed a desire to remain relevant: “just remaining relevant… [It is] important to remain relevant in your lifetime, which is why I am resisting retirement”.
Well Roger, you were relevant not only in your lifetime, but you remain relevant to this day, and you will keep remaining relevant into the future as a result of the inspiration that you provided to so many people in so many facets of your family, your community and beyond.
During the course of your lifetime your mentorship and leadership helped to build up many great lawyers, and it also built happier lawyers. You ignited and helped maintain many a bright legal mind to shine, and all of those lights, like stars in the sky, carry part of your teachings… they are the echoes that remain. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many in so many ways. Thank you for being an inspiration to me.
Voices of the Past,
Links of a Broken Chain,
Wings that bear us back to Times
That cannot come again.
Yet God forbid that we should lose
The Echoes that remain.
– Adelaide Anne Procter
Roger D. Yachetti, Q.C. [April 14, 1940 – September 16, 2018]
– May He Rest in Peace –
- The Bill Kelly Show. “A Tribute to Roger D. Yachetti, Q.C.”. September 18, 2018. Bill Kelly, Dermot Nolan, Ron Foxcroft.
- “A Hamilton Lawyer”. Laura Gouthro, College & Career Preparation Student, Mohawk College. June 2012.
- “Reflections A Man for All Seasons”, David Smye, Hamilton Lawyer Magazine
- “Roger Yachetti ‘loved Hamilton. In spades.’ Roger Yachetti, often credited with saving Ticats, dead at 78.” Hamilton Spectator. September 18, 2018
- “Curriculum Vitae of Roger D. Yachetti, Q.C. April 14, 1940 – September 18, 2018”, compiled by Loreta Dikaitis