Cathy’ s dad, George F. Young was one of the most remarkable men I have ever known. When Cathy and I first met and began dating in 1964 while I was an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, I had never met anyone from Fort Lauderdale. I met her mom, Virginia in Atlanta after we had been dating for several months because as President of the Florida School Board, she was in town for a meeting. Cathy’s dad and granddad, George W. Young were well-known building contractors in Fort Lauderdale, in a business that her granddad founded with his brother Will in the early 1900’s. The two of them were master cabinet makers from England. When I met Cathy, her dad’s construction business was the oldest one in the city of Fort Lauderdale and had built such landmarks there as the Riverside Hotel and the exclusive shopping area known as Las Olas.
When I finally met her dad during the Easter weekend in 1965, I had heard many stories from Cathy about him, and what a brilliant man he was with outstanding character. I had quite a bit of anxiety prior to our meeting, because I wanted to make a good first impression. I was planning to ask for his blessing for our marriage the following August. The first thing I discovered was that he was a man of few words. At our initial meeting and seemingly for several years afterward, I don’t recall him initiating a conversation with me. He was not impolite or rude, but I was never quite certain in those early years whether he liked me or approved of me as Cathy’s husband. Her mom, on the other hand, was open and verbal, and I was confident in her approval of me; so that was sufficient. I believed that if Virginia (Mom) approved, then George (Dad) approved also.
I always loved sitting with my own dad (Pop) and listening to his stories relating to his life and the many people that he had met and with whom he had interacted. I wanted to have that same type of relationship with Dad Young, but it was not possible in the early years because of his basic quiet and private nature. Mom Young however, was a story-teller like Pop, and she loved telling stories almost as much as I loved hearing them. One of the stories I have repeated often to many people, best characterizes Dad Young’s character and the reputation he had in the city of Fort Lauderdale.
A well to do man and his wife contracted with Dad to do a remodel on their beautiful and expensive home in Fort Lauderdale. Normally Dad’s fee to a customer was on a cost-plus basis, but in this instance he had agreed to a contract price for the work to be done. Throughout the remodel work, the wife made numerous changes to the agreed upon project, and Dad made those changes knowing that the final price would be higher than the contract price. He assumed that the husband would honor the added expenses and pay for them accordingly. When the work was completed and was inspected and approved by the owner, Dad presented the final bill which was considerably higher than the contract price. The customer told Dad he was only going to pay the contract price, despite Dad’s explanation for the added amount. Dad went home telling Mom that they were just going to have to absorb the loss since the homeowner was adamant in his refusal. Mom said, “George, this is just not right and we are not going to stand for this. We are being forced to take legal action.” In all of their previous dealing with customers, they had never taken anyone to small claims court.
An attorney was engaged and on the appointed court date, both Mom and Dad appeared with the necessary documentation of the work that had been done, and presented the detailed accounting to the judge. The judge very carefully examined the documents, looked at Dad and asked, “George, did you do this work?” Dad said, “Yes Judge, and that is my bill for the work.” The judge looked at the defendant while striking his gavel on the stand and said, “The court orders the defendant to pay George Young the amount of this bill.” The defense lawyer said, “Judge, we have not presented our defense.” The judge quickly said, “There is no need for you to speak. Everyone that has lived in this community for any period of time knows the integrity and honesty of George Young. If he says he did the work and this is his bill, then you must pay it because it is fair and reasonable. Case dismissed.”
Our children were fortunate to have known their Granddaddy Young before he departed this life, and they were also blessed to have seen a more talkative and open man than he was at an earlier age. He told us he enjoyed coming on visits with Grammy to Arkansas, even though he didn’t like the colder weather they occasionally encountered. All of their visits were filled with surprise gifts from Florida, lots of conversation with jokes and laughter, and plenty of good stories that have made many wonderful memories in our hearts. In remembering him, it has been the prayer of Cathy and me that our children and grandchildren and especially the men, will have the character and reputation similar to their Granddaddy Young.