Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Yvonne Meade, wife of Kentucky Derby-winning jockey, dies at 93

Yvonne Meade was married to jockey Don Meade.

Yvonne Meade was married to jockey Don Meade.

BROOKSVILLE — Questions about her husband, the country's top jockey for two years and a fixture in horse racing history, started many a conversation.

Had she been watching on May 6, 1933, when Don Meade won the Kentucky Derby aboard Brokers Tip — the culmination of a saddle-cloth-grabbing, riding-crop-slashing shoving match down the stretch with jockey Herb Fisher, who finished second aboard Head Play?

Eighty years later, the "fighting finish" lives on in what might be horse racing's most famous photo, snapped by a news photographer lying on his back at the finish line.

Had it really taken 32 years for Meade and Fisher to make up and shake hands?

Yvonne Meade poured the drinks at Don Meade's Jockey Pub and answered the questions. And no, she had not met Don in 1933. She was 13 then, dancing between rows of fruit trees in rural Illinois and dreaming of New York.

She would drop out of high school to get there, land a part in a chorus and model for Chiquita Banana.

She would dance in a traveling road show that included Patsy Cline and Bob Hope, her family said, and form friendships with singers Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.

All by age 24.

"Everybody always made such a fuss over Daddy," said DeeVon Quirolo, her daughter. Yet Mrs. Meade's accomplishments were every bit as unusual as those of her husband and equally touched by fame.

Mrs. Meade did tell her story in bits and pieces — about being a John Robert Powers model, living in Greenwich Village and dancing in Broadway chorus lines.

Around the time she met Meade, the fiery top jockey of 1939 and 1941 had managed to get himself banned from the sport.

Helen Lorraine Stankevich was born in 1920 in Walnut Hill, Ill., the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants. She changed her name as a performer to Yvonne Stanwyck.

With the riches from her husband's racing days gone, the family sometimes struggled. While her husband had only modest success as a horse trainer, the two pubs in Hollywood, Fla., helped pay the bills before his death in 1996.

Mrs. Meade stayed cheerful even through lean times, repeating a favorite phrase that covered wins and losses: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

"She was such a classy lady," said Desiree Barbazon, a daughter who trains thoroughbreds in Ocala. "She didn't come up with a silver spoon in her mouth. She did what it took to make it work."

Mrs. Meade enjoyed going to casinos and playing the slots or just fishing off a dock — and was then content to throw the fish back.

As her memory faded in recent years, her children assembled anecdotes that she had told them over the years. Together they created a narrative of glamor and celebrity, followed by struggles.

Mrs. Meade moved to Brooksville after suffering a stroke in 2012. She kept her spirits light, careful to wear just the right amount of makeup and celebrating the everyday with sparkling grape juice.

She died on April 20. She was 93.

"Yvonne lived life to the fullest," Quirolo said, "and was known for saying, 'It's time for PTA — party time again!' "

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.


Yvonne Meade

Born: March 17, 1920

Died: April 20, 2013

Survivors: daughters Desiree Barbazon; Donna Sarrett and DeeVon Quirolo; son Dennis Meade; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Yvonne Meade, wife of Kentucky Derby-winning jockey, dies at 93 05/03/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 3, 2013 10:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102