Life. Those of us who are truly grateful for it, those of us who understand the sheer grace of it, grasp the gift of it, appreciate the miracle of it, hope to get the most out of it as we possibly can. Whether we live 90 years or 83 years, we want to squeeze as much joy out of this world as long as we are in this world.
Charles and Wanda Young were those kind of people.
Charles faithfully served this country in the US Army during World War II. When the war was over, he continued serving in Germany, helping persons get their lives back on track, helping others squeeze as much joy as they could out of it, despite having their lives displaced by war or having their lives interrupted as a prisoner of war.
When he returned home, he continued serving others as a member of the First Christian Church of Fort Smith and as a member of the Belle Pointe Lodge of Freemasons in Fort Smith. He loved working to raise funds for Shriners Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, serving as the Shrine Circus chairman. He also served children and youth here in Fort Smith, helping them to enjoy life through play and completion, as he coached and supported the Fort Smith Boys Club.
Charles also enjoyed playing himself. He loved hunting, fishing, skeet and trap shooting. He and his wife of 63 years, Wanda, were both Arkansas State Trap Shooting Champions for a number of years. The both of them also enjoyed playing golf.
These opportunities to enjoy life were afforded to him by his work ethic, starting many businesses throughout his career, retiring as president and owner of R.A. Young and Son Construction Equipment Company.
Now, on the surface, all of this sounds like a full and fulfilled life; all of this sounds as if Charles truly did squeeze all of the joy out of life that he could, especially as we consider how he also did all that he could to give others a chance to enjoy life.
However, as I have heard many preachers say, when people reach the end of their lives, when they look back to make an assessment, look back to make a list of their regrets in life, there are several regrets that are never mentioned.
For example, at the end of life, no one ever says: “I regret that I did not spend more hours in the office away from home.”
No one ever says: “I regret that I did not spend more time away from my family trapshooting, fishing, hunting or playing golf.”
And as proud as people usually are of their military service, preachers never hear people say: “I regret that I did not spend more years overseas away from my friends and family.”
No, the regret that most preachers hear is:
“I regret that I did not spend more time with my family.”
“If I had to do it all over again, I would have paid more attention to my children.”
“I wished I would have shared more of my life with my kids.”
“I regret that I did not teach my children more of the values that were instilled in me by my parents.”
“I wished I would have spent more time with my wife, especially when she became ill.”
This is why I believe the greatest line in Charles’ obituary, which is full of his attainments, pursuits and successes is this one:
“His family always came first in his life.”
Greater than his military achievements that we honor today in this National Cemetery, greater than his business accomplishments, perhaps even greater than his charitable generosity, was his devotion to his family. First and foremost in his life, and in the life of Wanda, whose obituary reads much like her husband’s as she had her own list of accolades, was family.
Their daughter Linda shared the following words with me:
We are grateful that both Mom and Dad shared their zest for life with us. They were both people with many varied talents and interests. Growing up with Mom and Dad was always an exciting adventure. We were constantly involved in interesting activities such as golf, skeet and trap shooting, and trail riding on motorcycles in the beautiful Ozark mountains, hunting, fishing, calf roping, heading and heeling.
A love for education, of reading and art was also important in our lives. Learning about new things, learning to do new things, accomplishing and mastering new activities was a constant in our lives. Life’s lessons were embedded in all the activities. Dad spent his life teaching us about the cornerstones of life that would guide us as adults.
These always involved pursuing excellence and competitions. Dad taught us that practice makes perfect. That meant lots and lots of practice at whatever we were learning.
They took us with them everywhere, and they involved us in everything. Dad was the one who set the pace and it was rigorous.
Mom was always a good sport and jumped right in to join in the fun and learn right along with the kids! She ended up being an expert at whatever the activity. As the only girl, I am grateful that my mom set an example for me – ‘girls can do it all!’ With the right attitude and determination [I learned to always] go after your dreams!
We are grateful that Dad took time to be our mentor and a great role model. We are grateful that dad spent lots of time with us teaching life’s lessons along the way. My brother, Jim, reminded me that Dad had themes he worked on with us; he taught us to persevere – he taught us the meaning of integrity – honesty – and persistence – and to never judge the other man.
He taught us generosity for those less fortunate in life.
We are grateful that our mom was always home for us and that we were her sole focus in life besides our dad. She shared her artistic talents with all of us. We all spent hours with Mom doing art projects, painting, ceramics, and other arts and craft activities. She always took us along when she volunteered at the Girl’s Club as an art teacher.
She was a perfect match for Dad in spirit and in energy. They shared 60 years together. When my mom became ill with Alzheimer’s, Dad took care of her at home. For six years, he devoted his life to caring for her and giving her the most quality of life possible as the terrible disease progressed. Even when it was very, very hard he stepped up and worked harder at caring for her.
We are grateful that he showed us what true love and commitment is really about.
Life. Those of us who are truly grateful for it, those of us who understand the sheer grace of it, grasp the gift of it, appreciate the miracle of it, hope to get the most out of life as we possibly can. Whether we live 90 years or 83 years, we want to squeeze as much joy out this world as long as we are in this world.
Many people try to do that. However, I believe very few people can actually do it without regrets.
The good news is, according to what I have learned about Charles and Wanda through their children, I believe they may have done it: leave this life with no regrets.
And it is because of this good news, and because of their faithfulness to their God, to their church, to their communities, to this country, but especially to one another and their children, we, who are left behind to continue our lives, we also do not have any regrets this day. For we know that as they were faithful with the lives they were given by the miracle of creation, God has now been faithful to them by the power of the resurrection.
We come to this place with grateful hearts. Thanking God for eternal life in heaven, but also for eternity here on earth, as the Spirit of Charles and Wanda are still very much alive through their children and grandchildren.
Therefore, the final words from the Apostle Paul are most appropriate to conclude this eulogy, marking the end of lives well-lived.
2 Timothy 6
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 6:6-8).
Charles Holt Young, 90, of Hot Springs passed away Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. He was born in Greenwood on Nov. 10, 1926, to Horace William and Lucille (Scales) Young. Mr. Young graduated from Kemper Military Academy in 1944 and went on to attend Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. He was a World War II veteran serving in the 3rd Army, First Calvary Division. Following the war, he remained in Nuremberg, Germany, as part of the Army of Occupation assigned to oversee reintegration of displaced persons and prisoners of war.
Mr. Young was a Mason and a member of the Belle Point Lodge in Fort Smith. He served as the Shrine Circus Chairman raising substantial funds in support of the Shriners Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. As a longtime volunteer and board member of the Fort Smith Boys Club, he enjoyed coaching and supporting the baseball program.
His interests included golf, reading, hunting, fishing, skeet and trap shooting, performance breeding of Angus cattle and thoroughbred horse racing. A keen competitor, he held state, regional and national trap and skeet shooting titles. He was the Arkansas State Trap Shooting Champion for a number of years and inducted into the Arkansas Trapshooting Hall of Fame in 1973. A successful businessman, Mr. Young started numerous businesses throughout his career. Prior to retirement, he was president and owner of R.A. Young and Son Construction Equipment Co.
His family always came first in his life. Loving survivors include his daughter, Linda Young of Little Rock; two sons, Charles William Young and wife Ranie of Dallas and James Franklin Young and wife Mary Ellen of Chicago; grandchildren, Charles and Patrick Murray, Dr. Virginia Young and husband Brad Geswein, Clayton and Madeline Young. He was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Wanda Louise Young; and his two sisters, Nancy Young and Billye Smreker.
A kind and generous man, Mr. Young will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Arrangements by Little Rock Funeral Home and Edwards Funeral Home in Fort Smith.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, www.michaeljfox.org.