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Neil James Yorkston

May 18, 1928 - February 20, 2023


“No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those
who love him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9

Neil Yorkston passed away peacefully in Melville Hospice, Surrey, BC on Family Day, February 20,
2023. This is a summary of his remarkable journey.

Early Years in China
Neil’s journey began in 1928 in Yunnan-Fu (Southwest China). He was the youngest of three boys,
born to missionary parents (with China Inland Mission), John Yorkston and Annie (Bailey) Yorkston.
They lived in a tiny village in the mountains.

When Neil was six years old, his parents took him to Chefoo school, on the east coast of China,
where he attended as a boarder.

During WW2, Neil and his other school friends were moved to a Japanese Internment Camp in
Weihsien. Neil worked in the kitchen. At night he studied under a single light.

Eric Liddell, the famous Olympic athlete, taught at Weihsien. Eric saw promise in Neil’s friend,
Stephen Metcalf’s athletic abilities, giving him his worn-out running shoes. Neil remained in the camp
until it was liberated by American troops in 1945, when Neil was 17.

From China to Australia
Neil was then reunited with his parents in Australia. Sadly, both of Neil’s brothers had died in March
1945, having volunteered in the Royal Australian Air Force.

In 1995, Neil returned to China with his two daughters, Ruth and Anne, for the 50th anniversary of
Liberation. In 2005, he returned with daughters Catherine and Ruth. Neil was able to show them
where he was interned, and also the small village in the mountains where Neil’s parents had lived
and worked.

Neil studied medicine at Sydney University, completing his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of
Surgery (MB BS) degree in 1952. He worked until 1956 at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as a
resident, and then spent a year working in paediatrics at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children.

Australia, New Zealand, Ethiopia, and London
Neil first met Elizabeth Wendy Young in December 1946. Elizabeth had committed to a temporary
posting with the Middle East General Mission, or MEGM as a missionary in Egypt. Elizabeth was
expelled from Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956.

In February 1957 Neil and Elizabeth were married in Bowral, NSW, Australia. (Neil always said that
was the best decision he had ever made.) They celebrated their honeymoon climbing mountains in
New Zealand.

Neil obtained a diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (1957). Following the birth of their first
daughter, Catherine, in January 1958, the family departed for Eritrea (then part of Ethiopia) where
Neil worked as a medical missionary, as head of the medical department at the Haile Selassie 1
Naval Base, Massawa from 1958-1960.

A second daughter, Ruth, was born in September 1959, and soon after the family relocated to
London, England in September 1960, where Neil worked at Guy’s Hospital. Their son, Ian, was born
in December 1961, and Anne, their youngest, joined the family in June 1965. Neil trained to
specialize in Psychiatry and worked at the prestigious Maudsley Hospital in southeast London, while
earning his diploma in Psychiatric Medicine.

United States, England, and Canada
In the late 1960s, at the height of the “brain drain”, Neil received research funding for projects in
Philadelphia, USA. He spent three years at Temple University, Philadelphia, as Associate Professor
of Psychiatry. From 1970-73, he worked in the Department of Psychiatry and Medicine at the
University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he completed his major book, Psychotherapy versus
Behavior Therapy (Harvard University Press).

In 1973, he left the USA and returned to southeast London. He worked as a Consultant Psychiatrist
at Friern Barnet Hospital in North London until he was appointed Consultant Psychiatrist at the Royal
Bethlem and Maudsley Hospitals.

In 1980, the family immigrated to Vancouver, where Neil served as Head of Psychiatry at the
University of British Columbia. He and Elizabeth returned to Australia in 1990, where he worked at
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney and in Newcastle, NSW. In 1992, they relocated to County
Durham in northern England to be nearer their grandchildren. Neil ended his working life as a locum
in Scotland (his father’s birthplace), and retired to North Vancouver.

While Neil had a remarkably strong work ethic, he also enjoyed a wide variety of interests, including
photography, painting (Monet and Van Gogh were particular favourites), poetry, literature (especially
Shakespeare), drama, skiing, nature (usually mountains or the sea), camping, music, singing,
calligraphy, and more. He appreciated clear and expressive speech, with emphasis on appropriate…
pausing. A favourite book, “Painting as a pastime” by Sir Winston Churchill, reflects well Neil’s own
appreciation for hobbies. His dedicated life’s work–combined with his many interests–ensured that
his life was full, productive, and meaningful.

Neil’s Faith and Final Destination
It is impossible to share Neil’s story without addressing his deep and abiding Christian faith. His
belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour–and in God’s love for the world–was central to his life.
This brought purpose and meaning to his vocation and to his many projects and interactions.

From a medical perspective, Neil was intent on serving “the least of these”, always focused on
helping those in need. Neil fervently believed that careful, serious reading of the Bible was vital for
Christian growth and understanding. In studying the Word, he respected the incisive critiques
provided by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). In Vancouver, he formed a long-standing friendship
with Dr. J. I. Packer, (who taught at Regent College), who also shared an appreciation for Lloyd-
Jones’ work. He regarded The Pilgrim’s Progress (by John Bunyan) as an illuminating classic, and
had even considered updating the work for contemporary readers.

To the question, “What is home?”, Neil once answered “Heaven is home”. His family find comfort in
knowing that he has reached his final, truest home after travelling a long, extraordinary journey.

Neil is predeceased by his wife Elizabeth Wendy Yorkston (23rd November, 2020), and is survived
by his children Catherine (John), Ruth, Ian (Valerie), and Anne (Leslie), grandchildren Emma
(Abbie), Simon (Ally), Ben, Adrian and Fiona, and great-grandchildren Jonas and Albie.

A Memorial Service will be held at Shaughnessy Heights United Church in Vancouver at 2pm on
Saturday 25th March, 2023 with a reception immediately afterwards in the Church Hall. Neil wished
friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family to share in this celebration together.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Overseas Missionary Fellowship (omf.org), Leukemia
and Lymphoma Society of Canada (bloodcancers.ca), or Peace Arch Hospice Society




Send a condolence, light a candle and/or share a memory, click "Send Condolence". Once your message has been approved by the moderator it will be posted to the website.

From: Wiebe and Jeske Funeral Home

Wiebe and Jeske Funeral Home Staff send our condolences to family and friends.

From: Tony and Pat Schmidt
Relation: Through OMF International

Our sympathies to Neil’s family – some far away and probably would have loved to see him one more time. Even though only being part of Neil’s journey in the latter part of his life, we always felt the warmth and strength of his faith and his abiding love for Jesus. He loved and cherished his wife, Elizabeth, caring for and sustaining her as she got weaker and less able to cope with prayer meetings etc. We feel honored to have known him just this little while and only regret we did not know him earlier. We look forward to catching up with him when we get to Heaven one day! What a wonderful life he lead on earth!
Much love from Tony and Pat

From: Rev Dr. Ed Hird
Relation: He attended our All Saints congregation, and was part of our prayer and Bible Study group.

Dr Neil was an amazing blessing to so many people. When he took your hand, it expressed remarkable compassion. The love of Jesus shined through his eyes. His faithfulness in attending the prayer & bible study, even in challenging weather, was an inspiration to many younger people. We loved hearing stories about his time in the Japanese Internment camp in China, being mentored by the famous runner & missionary Eric Liddell. We thank God for a faithful servant in whom the Lord is pleased, promoted to glory in the Father’s presence.

From: Patrina Caldwell
Relation: Friend

On behalf of the CMDFA family we send our condolences to Neil’s family. Neil was one of the founding members of CMDFA and we remember him with fondness.

From: Alvin Desterhaft
Relation: I was a classmate of Neil's at Chefoo. I was interned with the Chefoo schools in Weihsien for just three weeks before my brother and I were whisked away to Shanghai to board the ship that would start our journey back to the USA. This was in September, 1943. r only three weeks before being repatriated to the USA in September, 1943. I would have loved a visit with him to share life experiences.

May the comfort of God fill all the niches of your loss as you grieve Neil’s passing. As he entered the presence of the Lord whom he loved and served over these many years, we can be sure that he was greeted with the Lord’s welcoming words: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”

From: Susan Goh Kuei Ling
Relation: He was my Psychiatrist

Dearest Ruth n Family of Dr Neil
J Yorkston
Sending my deepest condolences
Regarding the passing of Dr Yorkston
He has been the main help I received
At The UBC to attain my de
His guidance n help has been Phenomenal

From: Caroline Sayson
Relation: Through OMF prayer meetings

To the family of Neil Yorkston,
I pray for God’s love and comfort to surround you all. Thank you for sharing loving and touching tributes through the beautiful Memorial Service.

Neil is a special mentor in my life since I got to know him through OMF prayer meetings in 2012. He is a very kind and humble gentleman who loves the Lord and people. He is a prayerful man. His love for Elizabeth is apparent by how he cared for her.

Neil introduced me to the OMF book “A Boy’s War” (during the time that he was at the Weihsien Camp). I chatted with Neil at the 2022 OMF summer gathering, and he shared pictures of his past trips to China and spoke affectionately about the people there.

I wish I had known Neil earlier, but there is the hope of a time we can catch up in Heaven one day.

With heartfelt sympathies and prayers,

From: Caroline Sayson
Relation: Through OMF prayer meetings

Neil at the OMF Summer BBQ gathering in 2022.
Till we see you again one day, Neil!

Service Schedule

  Memorial Service

Date & Time:
March 25, 2023
Beginning at 2:00pm

Shaughnessy Heights United Church
1550 West 33 Avenue
Vancouver, BC Canada

Livestream link to view the service (on the day): https://youtube.com/live/SIUw3bv6SiU

1550 West 33 Avenue
Vancouver, BC Canada

Memorial Gifts

Memorial donations will be gratefully accepted to:

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Overseas Missionary Fellowship (omf.org), Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (bloodcancers.ca),

or Peace Arch Hospice Society (peacearchhospice.org).


Thank You Notice

Live Service

Livestream link to view the service (on the day): https://youtube.com/live/SIUw3bv6SiU

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Wiebe & Jeske Funeral Home
202-31314 Peardonville Rd.
Abbotsford BC
V2T 6K8


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