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Community mourns loss of Chuckey bakery owner

When Leonard “Rowdy” Yates Jr. failed to show up at his bakery facility on Mitchell Road in Chuckey Monday morning, employees knew something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
On Monday, Jan. 27, Yates, 53, 133 Deakins Creek Road, died in a 5:40 a.m. car crash on Tenn. Highway 107 near Jackson Bridge Road. Law enforcement officials are blaming an isolated patch of ice as the cause for the head-on collision with a tractor-trailer.
The driver of that vehicle, Roger A. Elhage, 61, of Bulls Gap wasn’t injured in the crash.
Yates was making his weekday trek to the store he owned, Mountain View Bakery, which is located inside of Mountain View Bulk Foods, owned by Tim and Rachael Troyer. It is the retail outlet for the Yates’ bakery business.
“He would leave the house about 5:30 a.m. and come to the store,” Tim Troyer said. “He would come in here and check the bakery stock to see what was needed. Then he would go on over to his bakery on Mitchell Road in Chuckey and return with fresh baked goods shortly after lunch.
“That’s where he was going that morning,” he added. “He was coming here to the store.”
Troyer had worked with Yates and his wife, Rhonda, for 10 years. It was a both a business and personal relationship.
“We worked closely together,” he said. “He was in here every day, stocking the shelves. He was always upbeat and he would give the shirt off his back to anybody in need. If you had time to sit down and talk, he loved to do that.”
Troyer described the former Marine and graduate of David Crockett High School as “a go-getter who was very pleasant to be around.”
“When we purchased Mountain View, the Yates were already here baking the bread,” he added. “Leonard was friends with the former owner of the bakery, Dan Tyson, who owns The Farmer’s Daughter, and Dan sold it to him.”
It was an unlikely business transaction, since Yates had apparently never planned to become a baker.
“He mentioned that he never dreamed he would be into baking,” Troyer said.
“I think his wife has had culinary training and she was the one who initiated it. The opportunity arose and they took it.”
The business became very successful, and the Yateses were well liked, Troyer said, adding that he has had a number of calls from customers expressing their condolences.
“Leonard was a local guy, born and raised in the area, and he knew a lot of people around here,” he said.
As for the future of the bakery, Troyer says that remains to be seen. But for now, bakery employees are carrying on, supplying bread, cookies, pumpkin rolls and other assorted baked goods to Mountain View Bakery as well as a number of other stores as far away as Knoxville.