When Cathy and I first met and began dating we were living in Atlanta where she had her first job as a fifth grade teacher at John Clancy Elementary School. I was an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital, and we were introduced by the wife of a friend and fellow intern, Dan Moore. Marsha and Cathy were both teachers at the school. For several months I resisted a blind date despite the fact that Marsha had told me how beautiful her new friend Cathy Young was and what marvelous character she possessed. I had known Dan and Marsha for several years prior to moving to Atlanta, and it seemed she was always trying to “fix me up” with a potential wife. She told me Cathy was “different from the others” she had in mind for me. When I finally agreed and the date was set we went on a double date so the initial meeting wouldn’t be so awkward. When I met her at the door of her apartment I was stunned by her beauty, and my first thought after seeing her was why had I resisted for so long? For me it was love at first sight. Cathy was from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and I had never met anyone from that city. Our courtship began in September, 1964 and within several months we both began to believe God meant for us to join our lives in marriage.
I met her Mom in Atlanta within the first few months because she was attending a national school board meeting there, and I believe her initial impression of me was a good one. It was the following year during Spring Break I scheduled a trip to Fort Lauderdale to meet her Dad and the remainder of her family. It was then I was planning to ask him for permission to marry her.
Cathy had told me many things about her Dad, George Young. He was a building contractor and owned the oldest contracting business of that type in Fort Lauderdale. His father had started the company in 1912, and together they had built some of the most impressive and beautiful businesses and homes in Broward County. From all she had told me I felt I had a good grasp on his character and his personality long before our initial meeting. She said there were some physical similarities between her Dad and me, but our personalities were different. In his type of business he was accustomed to hard physical labor in the Florida sun. In my profession my work is always indoors and required no manual labor at all. Despite the fact he had crews of men working for him he was quiet and introverted, and I am definitely not introverted. He was tall, slender and balding and these were the few similarities we had, but otherwise I didn’t think we looked alike.
Dad Young was so quiet when I was with him early in our marriage I was sure he didn’t think very much of me. I thought I could have a sustained conversation with anyone I spent more than a minute or two with, but not so with him. He was polite to answer any specific questions I had, but we didn’t have many common interests at this point. I knew absolutely nothing about the construction business, nor did I even know the names of many of the tools he commonly used. I was certain he didn’t know anything about the surgical tools I used each day. I discovered I was more interested in learning about his tools than he was in learning about mine. Dad’s quietness with me bothered me for a long time until I understood this was just his way whether he was with friends or family. I have posted the story of Dad driving with a friend to Atlanta years before, and after riding together for over eight hours, they each realized not one word had been exchanged!
After Cathy and I moved our family to El Dorado her Mom and Dad would visit us two or three times each year and would usually stay for five to seven days. We made the trip to Fort Lauderdale at least once each year and would have gone more often, but it was more difficult for us because of my surgical practice and the many activities of our kids.
Throughout the years of spending time with them and especially Dad, I learned at least three significant things about him and from him. First part of the reason for his quiet demeanor related to the fact as a child he had a stuttering problem, and early on it was embarrassing for him to speak at all. I never learned how he overcame the affliction, but by the time I knew him he spoke very clearly and had a masterful understanding of the English language. He often was seen searching his giant Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary which was located next to his easy chair. I never heard anyone stump him on the definition of any word. One of his favorite words was “eleemosynary.”
Secondly I never heard him say a critical word about anyone or participate in any gossip which might be taking place in his presence. I have often thought about this strong quality Dad possessed, and realize how essential it is for me and for all Christians to mirror this quality the Lord Jesus taught us to have.
Thirdly he had a wonderful sense of humor. When Jerry Clower became a popular humorist I started playing his tapes for Dad whenever we were together, and it was really fun to watch him belly laughing while listening to Jerry’s colorful stories. On one occasion we were able to go to a live performance of Jerry Clower when he appeared in El Dorado. It was just as much fun watching Dad as it was to hear Jerry’s stories.
After Dad retired from his business because of health issues he had lots of time to read and sit on the patio by their pool with his faithful dog, Maude at his side. The location was visible from the sidewalk in front of their beautiful two-story home in the Rio Vista subdivision. Friends and neighbors walking by usually saw Dad sitting there and would wave and occasionally stop for a brief conversation. It was such a relaxing spot whenever we visited this was also my favorite place to sit when he wasn’t there.
When Cathy and I were in Fort Lauderdale for the sad occasion of Dad’s funeral when he departed in 1983 I was sitting in his chair by the pool in the early morning hours on the day of his burial. An older gentleman I didn’t know was slowly walking by, and as he looked toward me I waved to him not thinking anything more than just being friendly. He did a distinct double-take in his look toward me and without waving he doubled his pace in moving away from the house. I believe he thought I was George and knowing of his recent death he must have thought he saw a vision of some type. I can only imagine what he told his wife when he got home from his walk!
In pondering the mistaken identity the neighbor had of me I have thought I would surely like to have others see in me some of the wonderful qualities Dad Young possessed. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” I am grateful for Dad Young’s model to me of controlling his small but powerful muscle, the tongue. However of all the outstanding accomplishments of Dad Young by far the greatest for me was to father the most wonderful daughter in the world, my wife Catherine Reta.