Herb Young, Cary's sports hero, dies at 84

Former councilman was a Cary native

akenney@newsobserver.comJuly 21, 2012 

COURTESY TOWN OF CARY

— Herbert C. Young Jr., a former councilman and a native of Cary, died this morning at age 84 following years with Parkinson’s disease. His passing “was a blessing for him,” said his daughter, Linda Young.

Perhaps more than his elected service in the 1960s and 1970s, Herb Young will be remembered as a sure-footed sporting man, six-foot-one, who was serious about fun. His decades of volunteer service literally imprinted his memory on the town’s parks and sport programs: the Herbert C. Young Community Center, named in his honor in 2001, is one of Cary’s most popular spots to gather and play.

“He ran Triangle Swim Club for 37 years, he dressed up as Uncle Sam for 20 years for the Fourth of July at Koka Booth” Amphitheatre, Linda Young said ticking off some of the places and events where her father left his mark. “He was a volunteer for the town of Cary for over 50 years for parks and recreation.”

More than a volunteer, Young helped carry the town’s recreation programs from their fledgling start. He was among the first members of the committees and boards that founded town sporting leagues.

“I have never worked consistently with anybody who is more giving of his time than Herb,” said Mary Barry, the town’s former director of parks and recreation, in 2001.

His dedication to sport seemed to come with his natural athleticism. He lettered in three sports during his years at Cary High School, which made him a charter member of its sporting hall of fame. He could throw a punch – at 17, he won a regional Golden Gloves boxing event – but he had a sense of humor, too.

“I used to not like to fight because I got my clothes torn. Now I don’t like to fight because I bruise easily,” he joked to a reporter in 1975.

The height of his football career came in the late 1940s at the University of North Carolina, where he centered the ball for Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice. Later, Young would spend decades officiating local basketball and football games – long enough to earn a spot in the N.C. High School Sports Association’s Hall of Fame.

“He was a big, robust type of person, and of course his judgment was good,” said Tim Brayboy, 73, an assessment of his friend’s officiating skills that applied just as well to the rest of Young’s life.

Politically, Young was an advocate of “balanced growth,” as the modern council might put it. Even in the 1970s, as the town’s boom was just beginning, he joined other council members to turn down six development proposals in a row one night, and was the sole dissenter to oppose the Cary Village Shopping Center.

Young finished nine years on the council in 1975, and launched into largely behind-the-scenes roles with municipal and regional athletic associations.

He spent summers at his Triangle Swim Club, a now-closed pool that Young opened in 1970. His goal, he recalled, was to give folks a place to swim “that would not cost them an arm and a leg,” he told The News & Observer six years ago.

“We didn’t put up with a lot of horseplay and mess, no cursing, no alcoholic beverages,” he said. Even after his wife Peggy died in 2002, Young practically ran the pool himself until 2006.

His philosophy through all the decades was simple, he told The N&O in 2000: “I like to be involved and help others if I can,” he said.

Young was a father of three, a long-time employee of Southern Bell Telephone Company, and a devoted member of Cary’s First Baptist Church. His years-long deterioration was painful to watch, friends said.

“He’s a great fella,” said Jerry Miller, another long-time Cary resident, days before Young’s death. “It just hurts me to look at him knowing how strong and healthy he was at one time. I just cannot take it.”

But as Young’s family and friends prepared his obituary, they had a long list of testimonials, honors and achievements to remind them of the big man they loved.

“Perhaps the greatest contribution Herb has done for the Cary community,” Brayboy said, “was the fact that he was a servant.”

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary

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