Jillian Suzanne Yeager would have been 48 years old this January. She was born at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia to Lee Yeager (me) and Ray Yeager (deceased). She died in Miami, Florida on Dec. 14, 2021. She lived in Miami for the past four years with her business partner Vlad Lialine.
She was a tiny baby, born seven weeks early. Her grandmother Martha Yeager called her “Little Bits.” I have a fond memory of her older sister Tamara toting her around in a Coca-Cola box, the kind with handles. Years later, after Tamara suffered a traumatic brain injury, Jillian was always there for her, supporting Tamara, and their bond remained strong. The two of them were as close as sisters could be. But they weren’t alone in their loving sisterhood. Back when Jill was ready to enter the 9th grade, she asked Ray and me to bring her girlfriend Becky Zackowski into our home, and she became my “middle child,” staying with us until just before her marriage to Joe Salnaitis. Jillian simply found room in her heart for our larger-than-planned family. But that was Jill, who loved openly and generously, filling others’ lives with sunshine.
Starting in her teen years, Jillian battled addiction. She embraced life and sincerely worked on recovery, and a part of that was her devotion to helping others. She attended several recovery programs over the years, but felt that Spring House in New Jersey was the best of all of them. Along the way, she matriculated at Patterson University, where she ended up being only a handful of credits short of graduating. Unfortunately, her addiction sabotaged her dreams, and it was fentanyl-laced drugs that took her away from us.
When Jillian moved to Florida, she felt she had found her home. Like her grandfather (Victor Grotta, deceased), she loved Florida’s sun and beaches – and the people she met there. Wherever she went, Jill made dear friends whom she treasured, and she will be remembered with joy and love by many.
In lieu of flowers, if you want to give something in memory of Jillian, please consider donating to LEAP (leapforladies.org), 3141 SW 8th St., Miami, FL 33135.