Mr. Yesner joined the business founded by his father, Louis, before serving in the Army during World War II. The art he had studied on and off during the Depression at such schools as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts was temporarily pushed aside. After the war, Mr. Yesner, by then married to Tobi Reisman Yesner, rejoined the family business.
Mr. Yesner's father, a Damon Runyonesque character who once worked as a carnival barker, opened the first Dewey's in Atlantic City in the mid-1930s. He called it Dewey's after the nickname he had acquired while serving in the Navy. His friends called him "Admiral Dewey."
The Atlantic City restaurant was followed by the first Philadelphia eatery at Eighth and Market Streets. Soon, other branches followed, and the chain grew to 15 restaurants with Mr. Yesner running the business as CEO along with his father and brother Newton.
By the mid-1970s, Mr. Yesner had "had enough of the restaurant business," he said in an interview. Newton Yesner died. Louis Yesner's health was failing. Mr. Yesner sold his shares, and the restaurants were eventually sold.
But the end of the one business meant the return of a lifelong dream for Mr. Yesner. Now, he could paint.
He moved to South Florida and focused on his artwork. He became a recognized watercolor artist, winning more than 30 major awards. His wife acted as hostess for his art shows.
"Selling one painting is better than selling 1,000 hot dogs," Mr. Yesner said in an interview. The Yesners returned to live in the area in 2000.
In addition to his wife of 62 years, Mr. Yesner is survived by sons Dewey and Budd; daughter Lenni Wilson; one sister; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Services and burial were private. Memorial contributions may be made to the Jami Wilson Scholarship Fund, Box 593, Delaware, Ohio 43015.
Contact staff writer Kristin
E. Holmes at 215-854-2791