Baltimore native Carolyn Yost, fashionable minister’s wife and expert gardener, dies

Carolyn Yost transformed the role of a traditional minister’s wife.

Carolyn Yost, a Highlandtown native, fashionable minister’s wife, skilled organist and adept gardener, died Jan. 6 at Charter Senior Living of Towson after a series of strokes. She was 95.

Mrs. Yost was born June 27, 1927, at home in Highlandtown. Her father, William Orzech, was a General Motors laborer, and her mother, Emma Kummer Orzech, worked at the American Can Company. Mrs. Yost graduated from Patterson Park High School in 1946. In adulthood, she acted as an unofficial class president by spearheading reunions and writing a monthly newsletter.


Mrs. Yost attended church at Luther Memorial on Eastern Avenue, where she was appointed the church organist at age 16. She met her husband, the Rev. John Yost Jr., as a child at vacation Bible school. The couple began dating at Patterson Park High School and married in 1950 while Mr. Yost studied to become a Lutheran minister at Gettysburg Seminary. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2020.

Mrs. Yost transformed the role of a traditional minister’s wife during her husband’s career at several churches, including Baltimore’s All Saints Lutheran Church, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and Epiphany Lutheran Church. The couple worked at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Northeast Baltimore for 24 years before Mr. Yost retired in 1994. Mrs. Yost filled in as an organist when needed.


“My mom was the minister’s wife in the ‘50s. In all the old movies the ministers’ wives are kind of dowdy and stodgy. My mother was like, ‘I’m not gonna be like that.’ My mother was extremely proud of her figure, extremely conscious of her weight. And she was very, very fashion-forward,” said Deborah Tewey, her daughter.

The position of the minister’s wife was akin to the first lady of a sitting U.S. president, Ms. Tewey said, and Mrs. Yost dressed like Jacqueline Kennedy. An expert seamstress and perfectionist, Mrs. Yost made beautiful hats and scarves that matched her outfits. She also made costumes of biblical characters that her husband would wear for Lenten and Advent sermons.

“It was unbelievable what she could do. And, of course, she made all of us clothes. So much so that I begged Mom, ‘Please, Mom, can I get a dress from a store? Just once,’” Ms. Tewey said.

Mrs. Yost never took a back seat to her husband. Instead, she was a social force who knew how to work a room. She became involved in the church’s vacation Bible school, Sunday school, music education and Lutheran Church women’s group.

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She frequently entertained church members and hosted annual holidays. The Yosts raised four children in parsonages until they purchased their own house in Towson’s Knollwood neighborhood. As a homeowner, Mrs. Yost adored interior decorating and refurbishing furniture.

She was also a dedicated gardener. Mrs. Yost was once able to grow a 3-inch cutting of an azalea twig into a bush.

“She could take a branch of something, get roots, and plant it and it would be 10 feet tall,” said Christine Yost, her daughter.

Mrs. Yost was the matriarch and the family’s rock, family members said. She loved to be around people and, in her later years at the senior living center, joined bingo and other group activities. Family members said Mrs. Yost, who never told people her age, looked much younger than she was.


“She wanted to live. Even when she was in the hospital she’d say, ‘I’m going to get back [home] and get walking.’ She was determined to keep going,” Christine Yost said.

Mrs. Yost was preceded in death by her husband, John, and son, also named John. In addition to her two daughters, she is survived by a son, Jeffrey Yost, of Catonsville; daughters-in-law Deanna Yost and Amy Yost; sons-in-law Patrick Tewey and Bill Hannegan; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandsons.

Services will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Baltimore.