Pallbearers carry Rep. C.W. Bill Young’s flag-draped casket into the First Baptist Church Indian Rocks in Largo Thursday afternoon where around 1,500 people gathered to pay their respects and say goodbye.
Photo by TERRE PORTER
Patrick Young comforts his mother, Beverly, as pallbearers carry Young’s casket inside the church.
Photo by TERRE PORTER
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders hold American Flags as they line the wall outside First Baptist Church Indian Rocks in Largo Thursday afternoon. The motorcycle group was part of the procession that followed Young’s body to Bay Pines Cemetery.
LARGO – A crowd estimated at about 1,500 paid their respects to Rep. C.W. Bill Young at his funeral service Thursday afternoon at the First Baptist Church Indian Rocks in Largo.
Two standing sprays of flowers and two poster-sized photos of Young adorned the sanctuary stage. Country and inspirational songs, including “I’m just an old chunk of coal,” played as photos of Young and his family rotated on two huge video screens.
The doors opened more than an hour early, as organizers anticipated the need to accommodate a large crowd. Dignitaries from around the state, county and municipalities attended. Military and law enforcement officers, many in full dress uniform filled many seats, along with veterans and private citizens.
About 40 members of the U.S. Congress and their staff members flew in from Washington D.C. to say goodbye. Per tradition, they entered as a group and then took their seats up front to the left of the stage. Pallbearers in full-dress uniform bore Young’s flag-draped casket to the front and his family filed in behind. John and Mary Wilson sang “God Bless the USA.”
Dr. Charlie W. Martin, pastor emeritus for the Frist Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, welcomed the crowd and told stories about an “extraordinary man.”
“He didn’t expect to even meet a U.S. Congressman, much less be one,” he said.
Bill Young was a big deal to Pinellas County and the United States. The many eulogies of the day told why.
Speaker of the House John Boehner told Young’s family, “Your loss is our loss,” adding that Young loved God, his family, his country and the House Appropriations Committee – in that order.”
He said even though they knew they shouldn’t have, fellow House members had griped when Young announced he would not run for reelection.
“Bill Young wasn’t just a leading man in the House, he was the House,” he said, as he took a moment to dry his eyes and regain his composure.
He talked about Young’s “fundamental sense of decency.”
“He never muttered a bad word and always acted in good faith. For that I admired him,” Boehner said.
Boehner also said it was impossible to imagine the House without Young.
“No one man or woman can fill his shoes; it will take all of us. So, Mr. Chairman, no need to call the roll on this one. The vote is unanimous. For now, goodbye and God bless, my good friend."
Dr. Paul K. Steele, Young’s local physician, talked about the Congressman’s “incredible tenacity.”
“He was an incredible asset to our nation,” Steele said.
Gen. James F. Amos, Marine Corps Commandant, called Young’s passing a “national tragedy.”
He also announced that he had made Young an honorary United States Marine about an hour before the funeral service began.
“It is absolutely the very highest honor we could bestow. He is officially one of us,” he said.
Amos talked about Young’s service and selfless work to help those who serve in the military.
“He did more to serve his nation and its people than anyone I know,” he said.
Amos told a story about “one of thousands of acts of kindness” done by Young for military personnel. A young Marine was having a difficult time getting much-needed medical treatment for his daughter. Somehow, Young found out and made sure she got the heart surgery she needed.
“American has lost a great public servant, a patriot and a dear friend,” he said.
Ryan Julian sang “My Way,” before Rep. Steny Hoyer read a letter from former Rep. Norm Dicks, who could not attend because his doctor would not let him fly. Dicks wrote that Young had done more for the military than anyone else had. He talked about the service of Young’s wife, Beverly, who visits wounded warriors in the hospital almost daily.
Dicks said that Bill Young believed in bipartisanship.
“Bill Young was a great American, a great leader and a great friend. He will be missed,” Dicks said.
Hoyer said he came to Largo to say farewell to his friend.
“The last several days we’ve all heard about his accomplishments of which there were a great deal,” he said. “But he was a lot more than just the sum of his achievements.”
Hoyer listed a number of keywords that would be repeated throughout the two-hour service: compassion, integrity, extraordinary patriotism, gentleman and gentle man – all “qualities he used to enrich his country and all of us.”
He attributed Young’s ability to accomplish great things to his “eagerness to listen” and his ability to be polite “even in times of conflict and confrontation.”
“He was beloved by all who knew him,” he said.
He praised the people of Pinellas who sent Young to Congress 42 years ago and “had the good sense to keep sending him back.”
“We all owe the citizens of Pinellas County a debt of gratitude for sending Bill Young to do service with us and for us,” Hoyer said.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen described a Bill Young that the people of Pinellas County might not have known, as he never let his health get in his way.
“In recent months, he used a walker or sat in a wheelchair, but he was always gracious,” Frelinghuysen said.
He was always ready to do the nation’s business and to that end, he kept a copy of the Constitution in his pocket. He fought hard for the military because the “military was doing the work of freedom.” Young wanted politics to play no part in legislation for “those who serve us,” Frelinghuysen said.
“Bill and Beverly visited the military hospital every week and met with wounded warriors,” he said.
They also underwrote expenses for military personnel in need, bought them food, found them jobs and interceded on their behalf for medical care. He said Young was “one of the best friends the military ever had.”
The praise continued when former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England took his turn at the podium. He talked about the special relationship he had with Young and he spoke of the many good deeds done during Young’s service to his country.
“This is why Bill’s death is so painful. Bill’s not here with us on our journey,” he said.
David Jolly, a former member of Young’s staff, talked about the “pure humanity of a man.”
“Mr. Young worked in the most powerful circles in the world, but he did not live there,” Jolly said. “At the end of each day, he went home and he was just a man with a family, a wife, sons and grandchildren.”
Jolly said Young once told a Vice President of the United States he would have to call him back because he had to take his family to their favorite restaurant. He put ballet practices of his “beloved granddaughter” first.
Young spent his final weeks visiting with and receiving well wishes from friends. Jolly said he didn’t spend that time talking about his work or accomplishments while in office. Instead, he talked about his love for his wife, Beverly, and his concern for her.
“He told his sons, should anything happen surround your mother with love,” Jolly said.
During his last phone call, one with former President George W. Bush, Young told Bush that he hoped people wouldn’t forget them too soon.
“We will never forget Bill Young,” Jolly said.
One of the most poignant moments came near the end of the service when Young’s sons paid homage to their father, including honorary son Cpl. Josh Callihan, who the Young’s have cared for since he was wounded in Kuwait.
He said the Young family came to him during his darkest hour when he didn’t have much hope.
“Lo and behold, these people came into my life. They loved me,” he said.
He said it was strange to “owe your life to someone,” and he continually questioned how he would repay that kindness.
“What do I do with this life you gave me,” he wondered.
He said he would ask Young for guidance, but he wouldn’t answer.
“I think he wanted me to find my own way,” Callihan said.
He said Young was selfless even in his final days. Young recorded a video for his unborn grandchild because he wanted to be able to talk to her.
“He was selfless in his devotion to his family,” he said. “I thank my father and his wife and my brothers.”
Robert Young said he spent two of his first four years of life without a father.
“Bill adopted me when I came along with my mom,” he said. “Not many men are willing to take on a 4 year old kid. If not for him, I would have no father at all.”
Visibly shaken, Robert said his father had taught him “a lot of stuff,” one of the most important being the art of balance. He taught him to listen and that even if someone was wrong to hear his or her point of view.
Robert uses that advice in his work as a marriage counselor.
“There’re two sides to every story,” he said. “Without my dad, I wouldn’t know that. Extremism is not a good thing.”
Robert said Young touches people every day.
“I don’t know if he really knew that. I want you to know that,” he said.
Bill Young II said his dad was his best friend for 30 years.
“He was one of the best men this world will ever know,” he said. “He was level headed and he used his brain and his heart when he made decisions.”
He thanked the doctors who took care of his father and he thanked his mother for the care she gave his father 24/7 that allowed his grandchildren to have more time with him.
“My father loved my mother more than anything in the world,” he said.
Billy said he would miss his father, but hoped to carry his values with him throughout his life.
“The best thing we can do is have service in your heart, help others and have respect for your fellow man,” he said.
Young has three other adult children, Terry, Pamela and Kimber, who Robert introduced at the end of the service.
“We’re not his only children,” he said.
David and Susie McMillan sang “How Can I Live Without You,” before Martin made his closing remarks. Susie McMillan sang “Going Home,” as a silent crowd left the room.
About Bill Young
Charles William “Bill” Young, 82, of Indian Shores, the nation’s longest serving Republican member of the U.S. Congress died Oct. 18, 2013. Young served more than 50 years in public office - 10 in the Florida State Senate and 42 in the United States Congress.
Young’s family was with him when he passed away about 6:50 p.m. at The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Young died from complications related to a chronic injury, according to a statement from his family.
He was born Dec. 16, 1930 in Harmarville, Pa. – a small coal-mining town. His father left when he was 6. His family moved to Pinellas Park when he was 15.
He served in the Army National Guard from 1948 to 1957. He was an aide to former U.S. Rep. William Cramer from 1957 to 1960 and served in the Florida Senate from 1961 to 1971.
Young was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1970. He was the longest serving Republican in the House, representing District 13, which includes all of Pinellas County except parts of south St. Petersburg.
Survivors include his wife, Beverly; four sons, Terry, Rob, Billy and Patrick Young; two daughters, Pamela Kay Ernest and Kimber Butts; one brother, Tom Young; one half-brother, Tom Wiley; one half-sister, Sue Wiley; and numerous grandchildren.
He was buried in Bay Pines Cemetery in a private service Thursday afternoon.