by Henry Lane Hull
When I read Bill Young’s obituary in the newspaper, I immediately knew I wanted to write a column about his many storied life, but the problem presented itself as to where to begin, for he was one of the most multi-disciplined individuals I ever met. About 30 years ago Bill and his late wife, Janice, came to the Northern Neck from Florida, thereby returning to their Virginia roots.
Bill had been born and raised in Mechanicsville, and remained a Virginia Gentleman throughout his life, even for a quarter of a century during his exile in Florida. After growing up in the Richmond suburbs, he had been a music major at R.P.I., (for newcomers, that is Richmond Professional Institute, the precursor of Virginia Commonwealth University), and music remained a driving force throughout his life, but it was only one of a host of driving forces.
When he and Janice returned to Virginia, Bill began laying the foundation for the Northern Neck to have its own classical orchestra. He became its first conductor, pulling together community members whom he knew to have expertise in various instruments. His performances were memorable, standing at the lectern in his white tie and tails, augmented by his impressive beard, and exhibiting total composure as he lifted his baton. He understood every note played by every instrument, and thrilled at the excitement of producing a symphony.
Among his other musical endeavors were performing with the Salvation Army Band in Hampton Roads, the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus Band, as well as several other orchestras. The Salvation Army was a passion for Bill, and he rarely had a conversation without mentioning it. High among Bill’s other consuming interests was marksmanship. During his Florida years he had operated a gun shop, as well as a vacuum cleaner business. He enjoyed competitive shooting, and was always eager to improve his already profound skill at many levels with firearms. For Bill, precision was the norm, whether in the realm of music, mechanics or shooting. Everything he undertook, he did with extraordinary attention to detail. He lived to be precise.
In his spare time in the Northern Neck, Bill worked with Richard Pruitt at Northern Neck Office Supply, repairing typewriters. In that venue I came to know him as a person, rather than as the dignified presence on stage as the orchestra played. In his role as a modern “mister fixit,” he was equally impressive, wearing a long, dark apron, standing behind a work counter, dissecting the innards of an obstinate machine.
My beloved old Smith-Corona was a frequent patient of Bill and Richard’s. For years my Good Wife tried valiantly to have me stop with it at the metal recycling bin on the way to town, but I knew Bill and Richard could keep it alive, and to this day it remains my favorite means of written communication. Now that I have moved somewhat away from my more primitive past, and type on the computer, the venerable machine sits in honor in a closet, always with the possibility of being brought forth once again. Like Richard, Bill never gave up on a machine.
Janice, who died in 2011, was Bill’s musical soul mate, singing in church choirs, and supporting his directorial career at every level. She also performed with the local hand bell choir. Together they comprised a musical power couple, and to others they showed that most of all music was fun.
Bill died last month at the age of 81. His was an important contribution to the quality of our life in the Northern Neck. He was a modest man, devoid of any form of conceit despite his wide-ranging talents, who found his pleasure in life in giving, whether in the form of a symphony concert or a repaired typewriter. Quite simply, he liked to give, and he did so all of his life.
William “Bill” Marshall Young, August 22, 1936 – December 15, 2017. R.I.P.