Obituary: Paul Yocum put his heart in family, business

  • Article by: JIM BUCHTA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 1, 2012 - 7:54 PM

When a big oil company threatened to steal away the many loyal customers that Paul Yocum had spent decades serving, he had no trouble persuading them to buy fuel from a company that he and his wife started in their Oakdale home.

"He was really driven by those core values of ethics and customer service, and he really cared for his community and his customers," grandson Tony Yocum said. "If his customer needed something in the middle of the night, he'd be there."

Yocum, founder of St. Paul-based Yocum Oil Co. and a board member at Premier Banks, died July 24 at age 95.

Yocum, who grew up in North St. Paul, was a proud World War II veteran, a radar man on aircraft carriers in the South Pacific who survived several close calls "under the watchful eye of God and his crew mates," said Tony Yocum, who now runs the business with two brothers.

Like his father, Paul went to work for Standard Oil, eventually becoming a commissioned agent. In 1959, frustrated at the way "Big Oil" was treating his customers, Paul and his wife, Fern, started their own company.

They started with two trucks. Fern kept the books, and they ran the business from their home in Oakdale. They built a Skelly gas station and delivered bulk fuel to homes, farms and businesses.

Yocum supplied other Skelly stations and eventually acquired more than 20 companies that were in the same business. By the time he retired in the mid-1980s, Yocum had accumulated more than 5,000 accounts, mostly residential customers who relied on him to deliver fuel oil to heat their houses.

Tony Yocum said that his grandfather was a president of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Oakdale and deeply committed to his church. He also served as president of Minnesota Petroleum Marketers Association at the time of the first oil embargo, and despite the obvious challenges was able to negotiate a steady supply for state emergency services and for his customers.

Yocum cherished his family, his grandson said, sharing his passion for coins, travel, golf and fishing at his cabin on Long Lake near Brainerd, where he taught the grandkids to fish.

And while Yocum often traveled for work, there was always time for family trips. When Tony was 10, his grandfather gathered up the entire family and hauled them off to Disneyland. "That was really fun," Tony said. "He'd go on the rides, he was very fun and wasn't afraid of much."

Along with grandson Tony, Yocum is survived by daughter Paula Olson, son Tony Yocum, eight other grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376

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