By: Kelly Bondurant, Freelance Writer/Editor for Hire
The local community was saddened to learn recently of the passing of Chick Young, former long-serving Henderson mayor, on Saturday, March 3, 2018, at the age of 84.
Young’s service to the office of mayor began in 1979 and continued for 24 consecutive years until 2003 when he decided not to seek reelection.
Young was born in Vance County in 1933 to the late Robert Gill Young and Helen Goodwyn Young. He graduated from Henderson High School, and later, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in business administration.
Shortly after graduating college, Young joined the United States Navy, serving four years of active duty and 26 years in the Naval Reserves before retiring with the rank of captain.
Soon after returning to Henderson in 1960 to enter business with his father, Young opened a life and health insurance agency.
In addition to his business, Young was active in the community, serving as president of the Henderson Jaycees, chairman of the Henderson Recreation Commission, Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year and was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Foundation.
He also served on the Board of Directors and several committees of The North Carolina League of Cities. Upon his retirement, Young was presented The George Rose Watkins Jr. Citizen of the Year Award and was also presented The Order of the Long Leaf Pine by the governor of North Carolina.
Young is survived by his wife of 60 years, Shirley Knott Young, two sons, three grandsons and three great-granddaughters.
Donald Seifert, a retired Henderson businessman, Vance Granville Community College Trustee and longtime friend, grew up with Young and remembers him fondly. “Chick loved his family, he loved his church, he loved his community and he loved his country,” said Seifert. “The fact that he served as mayor for as long as he did is evidence of his love for his community.”
George Watkins, past president of Rose Oil Company and community leader/advocate, remembers a man that was more than a friend, “Our families vacationed together for 48 years. He was more like a brother than a friend.”
In speaking on his tenure as mayor, Watkins explained that Young was a big support, along with the City of Henderson, in the building of the new H. Leslie Perry Memorial Library and the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center.
In an on-air interview with WIZS, Seifert also mentioned Young’s support in the efforts to bring recreational opportunities to the area. “Chick was instrumental in bringing recreation to Henderson and in getting Fox Pond Park and the Aycock Recreation Center developed,” Seifert said.
Eric Williams, former City Manager, who served the majority of his tenure under Young, spoke on the impact Young had on others. “Chick stands out at the very top of the list of public officials that I have worked with,” Williams said. “He was extremely gifted at bringing people together.”
Williams stated that Young’s enthusiasm and love for the community were contagious. “He was the area’s biggest cheerleader. He was constantly promoting the history and vitality of his hometown,” said Williams.
Fellow former Henderson Mayor James D. “Pete” O’Geary, who served two terms, spoke of Young as a man of great integrity. “I met Chick in 1981 when I served on the City Council. I was always inspired by him and how he handled the office of mayor. He was so dedicated and set a great example for the staff at City Hall and the community,” O’Geary said.
Years later, when O’Geary ran for mayor and won, Young shared words of wisdom. “I’ll never forget the time he visited me at home after the election. He told me that the mayor is the number one elected official to this city,” said O’Geary. “He told me that I would set the example, not only for the City Council and staff, but for everyone. He said that the life that you live will be a life that people look at and remember.”
Dianne White, who worked as City Clerk with Young for 15 years, shared her thoughts on Young’s character. “He was highly respected by many organizations,” said White. “Our Mayor Young was approachable and helped many citizens. He will always be remembered kindly.”
Former Henderson City Attorney John Zollicoffer remembered Young’s easy-going and calming nature. “When he was mayor, people would come to the City Council upset about something and he would patiently listen and then reassure them on what he knew could be done, or if it couldn’t be done legally, he’d calmly explain why,” said Zollicoffer. “You could just see their anger dissipate. He was oil on the waters as far as calming people and viewing things in a rational light.”
Young’s friends and colleagues also remember a man that loved sports, especially golf, football and Carolina Tar Heel basketball. “He loved to play golf, especially in retirement, but only during the week. He saved the weekends for family time,” said Seifert.
Cam Ford, preacher of New Horizons Baptist Church in Oxford, was a fellow golfing buddy of Young. “I met some of the finest people and best friends of my life at Henderson Country Club and I would certainly count Mayor Young in that group,” said Ford. “I enjoyed getting to know him. He is the absolute epitome of a Southern gentleman.”
In remembering Young as a beloved mayor, businessman, community leader and friend, Watkins echoed the sentiments of many, “Chick was the best mayor that we ever had. I’m going to miss him.”
A memorial service will be held Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at 2 p.m. at The Church of The Holy Innocents by the Rev. Donald A. Lowery. A reception will follow in the Great Hall of the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Church of The Holy Innocents, 210 Chestnut Street, Henderson, NC 27536 or to the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center, PO Box 769, Henderson, NC 27536.
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