Remembering Market Mayor Michael Yaeger

Members of the Market Community,

I am deeply saddened to share that Michael Yaeger passed away on Saturday, August 20th surrounded by his family.

I first met Michael Yaeger in the fall of 2010. I was the newly appointed Executive Director of the PDA and was just starting to find my footing. As Mayor of the Market, Michael was well known by the larger community, having participated in many spirited public debates. I was warned that he spun fantastic yarns, that he was passionate and fierce. I was told he had, at times, upset some folks with his passion for the neighborhood.

I was intrigued from the outset and spent many mornings during my first three years on the job eating breakfast with Michael in a corner seat on the second floor of Lowell’s. During these breakfasts, I learned a great deal from Michael about the history of the Market, the politics and the hot button issues. He tested my instincts and questioned and probed the intent behind my early actions and decisions. And, true to his reputation, he shared many wonderful and fantastic stories.

I learned about his younger years living in LA, travels to Spain, movies he wrote and directed, painting, poetry and art. And I watched him glow with admiration when we spoke about his family, his wife Sarah, daughter Mercedes and son Antony. When it came to his family he spoke with a reverence and pride that was unwavering and absolute.

While Michael was an artist through and through, in his heart, the art he was most proud of were the watercolors from the hand of his wife Sarah. While he had written many stories, movies and books, it was the poetry of his son, Antony, which he held most dear. And while he was quick to share his own business acumen (including more than a few copyrights), it was the success of his entrepreneurial daughter Mercedes that he most often referenced.

Over the years I learned that the title of Market Mayor for Michael was well earned. He was indeed fierce and passionate, he did indeed enjoy drama and controversy and he worked tirelessly for what he believed was right for the Pike Place Market. What many folks may have missed, however, was the underlying reason for his passion, his real reason for being— his family.

Mercedes shared the following with me recently, “There is so much to be said about his vision of the Market and how he fought for it but at the core, the Market is what created and supported our family. You know, he is a big character, my dad, he is a strong dramatic force, but what he really did by coming to Pike Place in 1979 was give all of us a home... and his story, that part, ... is what so many families in the Market have experienced. He did what a father does best, he created the foundation for his family and then he fought tooth and nail to protect it.”

It is without question that Michael left a lasting impression with all whom he came into contact. He has left an indelible mark in PDA meeting minutes, on Market politics and neighborhood publications. He never backed down from a fight that he thought was right. But beyond all of this, something much greater was at work. While the Market was one of his favorite places in the world, it was not the bricks, the streets or the business that ultimately mattered. Mayor Yaeger was famous for saying, “Welcome to the Casbah of the Pacific.” What he was really saying was, “Welcome to our small town, where our families, live, work and grow.”

Michael Yaeger will be greatly missed, but his legacy, his legacy of family, will live on here in the Market. We will continue to debate, to strive to make this place better and ensure that it welcomes visitors and supports families for generations to come.

A memorial to honor the life of Michael Yaeger, the Mayor of Pike Place Market, is scheduled for Sunday, October 16th at 6:00 pm on the Joe Desimone Bridge.


Ben Franz-Knight, Executive Director Pike Place Market