Filemon “Fil” Co Yao, 87, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 – surrounded by his loving family

Filemon “Fil” Co Yao (given name, Yao Yee Thun), 87, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 – surrounded by his loving family. Fil was born November 12, 1933 in Fukien, China to parents Yao Bong Hok and Co Ay. He was one of 9 siblings.

Fil moved from China to the Philippines at the age of 7, where he hid in the hills during WWII. After, he went on to support his father’s various businesses. Eventually, he attended medical school, graduating from The University of Santo Tomas, The Catholic University of The Philippines, in 1958. Fil’s mother supported his move to The United States, where he continued his medical studies. In 1959, he landed in Evergreen Park, Illinois to complete his surgical residency at The Little Company of Mary Hospital (LCMH). At LCMH he met the love of his life, Elizabeth (Betsy) Ann Donnellan – a nursing school student – whom he married in 1963.

In 1967, Fil and Betsy moved their young family to Whitewater, Wisconsin after Fil was recruited by Dr. Stephen Ambrose to open a local practice. He was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and was on staff at Fort Atkinson Memorial Hospital, where he served as Chief of Surgery multiple times, until his retirement in 1995. He touched many lives through his practice and his involvement in the local community. To this day, there is probably only one degree of separation between those he impacted and the community he embraced – and that embraced him.

After retirement, Fil and Betsy moved to northern Illinois where Fil enjoyed playing golf (just as he did at the Whitewater Country Club), going out to dinner, sipping a good scotch (especially if it was on sale), and playing the markets. He was happiest when surrounded by his family. A July 2019 trip to his ancestral home and birthplace was one of his favorites – culminating with a family reunion and family wedding. His last trip to Hawaii is one that the family will cherish forever – as it was over the holidays, just prior to the pandemic – and where he was joined by over 20 relatives from around the world.

Fil is loved and survived by his wife, Betsy, and their three children – Phillip (Alison), James (Sarah), and Maria; one granddaughter, Elli; his brother, Benito (given name, Yao Yee Pua) (wife, Annie); and many nephews, nieces, grand-nephews, and grand-nieces. He died surrounded by his adoring family, with Jeopardy – an afternoon ritual with Betsy – on in the background. He will forever be remembered for his infectious smile, twinkling eyes, and welcoming demeanor.

Per Fil’s wishes, the family is not planning a formal memorial service at this time. However, the family invites anyone who wishes to share a favorite photo and/or story to visit the tribute wall to Fil at:

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Fort Memorial Hospital Foundation (noting that the gift is for the Dr. Yao Memorial Fund):

Via check – payable to:
The Fort Memorial Hospital Foundation
611 E. Sherman Avenue
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538

Via the website –

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