Doug Yonko, an important part of Arizona’s beer and beverage industry and a community leader known for bringing people together, has died.
Yonko was the vice president of communications for Hensley Beverage Company, one of Arizona’s largest beverage distributors. Throughout his career, Yonko also held various roles with local business organizations including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, Arizona Finance Authority and Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association.
Gov. Doug Ducey released a statement on Friday, Sept. 25. expressing his condolences, thanking Yonko for years of mentorship and calling him an “outstanding Arizonan.”
“Throughout Arizona, Doug [Yonko] quickly became known for his immense business acumen, civic engagement and generous willingness to give back to the state he loved so much. Among the many issues he devoted himself to include advancing Arizona’s trade relationship with Mexico, creating opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs, and making Phoenix a cleaner, safer place to live,” Ducey’s statement read in part.
The governor went on to offer his condolences to Yonko’s family and describe him as a “doting father and husband” to his wife Elisabeth, daughters and grandchildren.
Yonko died on Sept 24. He was 62.
‘It’ll be a long time before we get somebody like him’
Yonko spent much of his career in the beer industry, working for four decades at Hensley Beverage Company, a business that distributes beer from craft breweries and national brands, along with wine, spirits and other beverages to restaurants and bars across Arizona. The company was started by Cindy McCain’s father Jim in 1955.
In response to Yonko’s death, Hensley’s CEO Bob Delgado shared a statement with The Arizona Republic.
“Doug was one of the pillars of our company. He had been with Hensley for 40 years and, in many areas, served as the face of our company within the community. More importantly, he was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather to his beautiful family, and a close friend to many of us. To have him taken away so suddenly is hard to comprehend, but we must take solace in all of the memories that we carry forward and remember him as the thoughtful, kind and caring person that we all knew,” Delgado wrote.
Yonko often worked to connect Arizona’s brewing community with policymakers and changemakers in other industries such as sports and tourism.
Rob Fullmer, executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, which represents independent breweries across the state, remembers Yonko as someone with a great love for Arizona, its craft breweries and the people who run them.
“He’s been a key player at getting people to the table,” Fullmer says, whether that be for policy discussions or helping small businesses succeed.
Fullmer remembers meeting Yonko along with then-candidate Ducey at Huss Brewing Company while the governor was running for office for his first term.
“He brought a young Doug Ducey to Huss Brewing and it was really something he didn’t have to do,” Fullmer says. “He felt we were important enough to bring then-candidate Ducey out to the brewery.”
Fullmer described Yonko as a great source of advice while, at the same time, someone who was always eager to listen and gain different perspectives.
“He never came across as the expert but he certainly was,” Fullmer says. “It’ll be a long time before we get somebody like him.”
Arizona leaders remember a ‘true champion’
Ducey and Fullmer are far from the only ones sharing memories and gratitude for Yonko, who was valued by many in the beverage, politics and business worlds.
U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema shared a message on Twitter, calling Yonko a friend and offering condolences for his family.
“Doug Yonko was a generous, thoughtful man who did so much for our state. He was unfailingly kind to me all these years, no matter the politics,” Sinema wrote.
Kim Sabow, president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association tweeted her reaction to the news on Sept. 26.
“I struggle to find words to describe the deep heaviness and sadness in my soul over the passing of my friend and mentor, Doug Yonko,” Sabow wrote. “Doug was so much to all of us! I will forever be grateful for the blessing to learn from and work alongside such an extraordinary person.”
Individuals were joined by organizations remembering the community leader as well. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, an organization for which Yonko once served as chairman, posted a message on Twitter calling Yonko a “true champion” and “trusted friend.”
The Beer and Wine Distributors of Arizona, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Cactus League Baseball Association were among the many others who shared messages about Yonko.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Remembering Doug Yonko, a ‘true champion’ of Arizona beer and business