By Ann Hellmuth
“We’ll ask Yvonne,” “Let’s get Yvonne, she’ll do it.”
Every time a major Hot Topics debate where time was of the essence was being planned, HT chair Andrea Kobrin would mark Yvonne Opfell down for the all important job of timekeeper.
And Yvonne never failed to keep things running on time. Even verbose speakers not used to taking orders wavered when Yvonne held up her board bearing the number of seconds left to speak and gave him or her a firm, unyielding look.
So it was not a good day when I got an email from Yvonne in which she said she could no longer be the League’s timekeeper. Yvonne explained that she had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, requiring her to be almost permanently attached to an oxygen machine.
“I have been moderating debates in this town for more than a decade and wish I could have had Yvonne at my side for all of them,” said Scott Maxwell, the Orlando Sentinel’s “Taking Names” columnist. “I have seen her stand up and wave the ‘Stop talking’ signs in the faces of everyone from mayors and county commissioners to governors and members of Congress. Many of them fear running afoul of Yvonne … as well they should. Come to think of it, if Yvonne took her signs to Washington, I bet things like the debt-ceiling debate would be resolved in minutes, rather than months.”
Yvonne joined the LWVOC in 1978 when Linda Chapin’s was president. Her favorite committee was local government, which she chaired.
“When Linda became Orange County chair she called Pat Schwartz and
me to form a committee to find the problems with the OC Advisory Boards,” Yvonne recalled. “Boy did we. At that time there were 76 ADV boards. With the help of the members of LWVOC, all of the boards were personally visited. Pat and I made up questions, the answers were placed on a spread sheet. That showed the problems. The BCC accepted the report and implemented our recommendations.”
Later Orange County Commissioner Fran Pignone had Yvonne appointed to the Central Florida Research Park Commission, where she served for eight years, two as chair.
“I've enjoyed the LWV,” Yvonne wrote in her email. “Hope I have added something to the LWV.”
You sure have, Yvonne.