Family and friends attend a military service for Val York at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
Photo by Steve Ranson.
His shooting from the basketball court led to championships for both Fallon and the University of Nevada.
His steadiness at the plate led the Wolf Pack in his senior year.
His intrepidness as an officer in the U.S. Army allowed him to maneuver a Huey gunship over the jungles of South Vietnam.
Val York and Carolyn (Barkley), his wife of more than 60 years, were recently remembered for their love to one another and their love of life at a military service conducted at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery and later in the day among friends at a special gathering. Val York, 81, died April 18 after a long battle with dementia, and Carolyn, 79, succumbed to breast cancer Nov. 19, 2019.
Dave Lumos, who played sports with Val in high school and college, knew Val and Carolyn before they completed their high school days in Fallon. Dave and Val, though, first faced each other either by competing on the basketball court or baseball diamond as opponents and later as teammates.
“We played together in sixth grade,” Lumos recalled. “We had the superintendent coaching an ABC (basketball) team. We got to play an all-star team in eighth grade. When we played in the championship game, we returned to town, and the game had been announced on the radio.”
Courtesy of the York family
Carolyn and Val York when he was a captain in the U.S. Army.
The boys faced each other for years, but it was only when they attended Churchill County High School they could call each other teammates. York’s tenacity on the basketball court landed him a spot on the Greenwave roster when he was a sophomore and was capped when Fallon won the state championship in 1957 during his senior year.
“Val was the star, no ego,” Lumos said.
York also led the baseball team to a state title two months after the final basketball game. Lumos said his friend was modest and a dedicated student. The Lahontan yearbook profiled York as a former freshman class vice president, sophomore class president, junior class secretary, student council, Tri “S”, FFA, Block F and Boys State. He earned all-state in baseball in 1956 and 1957 and all-state in basketball in 1957.
The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association honored York by inducting him into its Hall of Fame in 1993, and the Greenwave Hall of Fame honored York in 2017 and 2018 for his individual play and the baseball and basketball teams’ state titles. Members of the Greenwave Hall of Fame consider Val York as one of the greatest — if not greatest — athletes to call Fallon home.
The first Greenwave Hall of Fame dinner in 2017 took the Yorks, Lumos and other teammates down memory lane by reminiscing when life seemed simple both on and off the playing field.
The late Ed Arciniega, who coached York in basketball and football, nominated the former Greenwave athlete for the NIAA Hall of Fame.
“There have been many, many outstanding athletes from Churchill County High School,” Arciniega said. “Val York, however, stands at the top of my list. He learned well the lessons that athletes teach.”
Rich Lee played with York as high school teammates and also spent time playing against each other.
“Val was an extraordinary athlete, no doubt about it,” Lee said. “He didn’t take all the glory himself although he could’ve because he was that good as an athlete.”
Loyalty to his friend and teammates was a characteristic York took to Nevada and later to the Army. Lee said York never forgot a face. Lee, who remained in Fallon like Lumos, watched York play sports at the university.
“He had an outstanding jump shot from the corner. You couldn’t stop it,” Lee said.
Joan Johnson, a CCHS classmate of York’s, said he was “a quiet guy.” She distinctly remembers his induction into the Nevada and Greenwave halls of fame and his military service.
“He had come back as a pilot from Vietnam, and that changed him forever,” she said.
Success with the Wolf Pack
York only improved as a student athlete at the university level. He led the Wolf Pack basketball team in scoring during the 1959-60 season and in assists in 1959-60 and 1960-61; earned Far West Conference honors twice; and guided Nevada to a Far West championship in 1961 after the team tied for the league title in 1959. As a baseball player for the Wolf Pack, he roamed the infield – third and first base — and led the team in hitting during his senior year.
In 1961 York received the Doc Martie Award that honored the outstanding male senior athlete.
Lumos was a teammate.
“He was exactly the same in college (with basketball),” Lumos recounted. “He knew where to be with the outlet pass.”
Additionally, Lumos said York played for two legendary basketball coaches at Nevada, each for two years: Jake Lawlor and Jack Spencer. During his final year of baseball, York led the team in hitting and played at either third base or shortstop for first-year head coach Bill Ireland.
“No one looked for fame and fortune in the old days,” Lumos quipped.
In 1989, the University of Nevada inducted York into its Hall of Fame along with swimmer Belikow Ballatore, football player Doug Betters, track coach Jack Cook and basketball player Edgar Jones. He is the only ex-Greenwave athlete to be inducted into the university and NIAA halls of fame.
Courtesy of the York family
Val and Carolyn York in their later years.
A career of service
After York received his U.S. Army commission, he headed to Fort Rucker, Ala., to earn his flight wings for qualifying on helicopters. Next stop: overseas. South Vietnam in the early 1960s was a country in Southeast Asia that didn’t capture everyone’s attention on the evening news. Once in country, York flew UH-60 Iroquois helicopters, better known as Hueys, that transported soldiers and cargo, performed search and rescue operations and hovered over the jungles as aerial weapons platforms.
Michael “Mick” York followed in his father’s footsteps by enlisting in the Army in the 1980s and completing flight school. Mick flew the big CH-47 Chinook helicopters and spent time overseas at Camp Casey in South Korea from 1985-86. Mick, though, wished he knew more about his father’s military service during the Vietnam War.
“He as very tight-lipped about it,” Mick said. “Mostly, the stories I get are from friends. That was his generation.”
What Mick knew about his father was the dangers of flying a Huey gunship. He knows his father lost friends due to some of the skirmishes and experiences where some of his most dangerous times picking up injured soldiers or Marines during a MEDEVAC (medical evacuation) mission. Huey pilots maneuvered their Hueys by swooping through the trees and clouds and into spaces no man would land but did with guns a blazing from the helicopter’s sides.
Mick added his father had an unaccompanied tour in South Korea.
When his father served in Vietnam and South Korea, Mick said the family temporarily relocated to Fallon to be with the grandparents.
Dennis George, a retired colonel in the Nevada Army National Guard, flew helicopters in both the active Army and reserves. George began flight school in 1967 but while walking to class, he noticed a car with Nevada license plates and the Churchill County “CH” designation. The young lieutenant quickly became a sleuth and discovered the Yorks owned the vehicle. After their schooling, their paths crossed again.
“A year later we were in Vietnam,” George said. “He was the battalion ops (operations) officer for the company.”
George said he flew helicopters, but York was confined to an office except for meeting his flight hours.
“I thought the world of him,” George said, adding he didn’t know Carolyn well.
Both Val York and George kept in contact over the years, and later in their careers, they were both teaching ROTC as professors of military science, George at Nevada and York at Montana State University in Bozeman. York finished his 20-year career at the National Training Center (Camp Irwin) 35 miles northeast of Barstow, Calif., and returned to Bozeman — after 18 months training in the desert — where he and Carolyn called home.
During his career, Val York earned many awards and decorations to include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, and 32 Air Medals.
Former Nevada Gov. Robert Miller, right, presents Val York with his plaque for being inducted into the University of Nevada Athletics Hall of Fame in 1989.
Steve Ranson, file
Heading toward retirement
Tom York, the youngest son, enjoyed the time he spent with his father.
“He was like the coolest guy ever. He was just dad,” Tom said.
He also remembers some of his father’s military ventures in Vietnam, especially when he flew the Huey gunship.
“Dad was like the guy coming in with guns blazing at tree-top level,” York recalled.
During his father’s last tour before retiring, Tom said the family visited him at Fort Irwin, which Tom described as a horrible place. Tom also liked the extended trips to Fallon when the family stayed with the grandparents, whose house was located at Center and Taylor streets. While his father was in Vietnam, Tom said the boys attended school at Northside Elementary for six months.
During Val York’s assignment at MSU and in retirement, Tom York said his father liked to hunt and fish and enjoy the scenery of Big Sky country. Both Val and Carolyn traveled extensively in the United States and overseas.
Paul Slayton, a former pastor and family friend, said at the military service Val and Carolyn York had a marvelous circle of friends.
“You knew Carolyn and Val and knew they cherished family and friends,” Slayton said. “You knew them in a different time.”
Slayton said the Yorks thought of their family and friends first and also had a marriage that spanned more than six decades.
“The best things in life are people in love, the places they have been and the memories made along the way,” Slayton said.