December 4, 1928 - November 11, 2017
William Caswell Young (Bill) completed his journey in this life at his home in Ashland, Oregon, and passed into the Grace, Peace, and Eternal Joy of God’s Presence November 11, 2017, Veterans Day. As an Air Force veteran of the Korean War and a stalwart supporter of Veteran’s organizations, it was a fitting day to depart.
Born in Austin, Texas, December 4, 1928, to William C. and Cora Young, Bill grew up in Pasadena, California where he graduated from Pasadena/San Marino High School in 1947 after attending Midland School (a private college preparatory boarding school) in Los Olivos, Calif. Bill was a “surfer boy” spending as much time on the beaches of southern California as time would allow.
He earned money for his first car by parking cars for the Rose Bowl game in his family’s nearby yard and driveway. Bill loved drawing and music, especially the Big Band sounds and jazz. He played drums in his high school band and learned to play ukulele from a Hawaiian surfer friend (much to the chagrin of his classically trained pianist mother!)
Some of his fondest childhood memories centered on road trips he took with his father to sales appointments throughout the southwest. (Bill came by his marketing and sales abilities naturally.) Bill majored in industrial design for two years at UC Santa Barbara before joining the U.S. Air Force in January, 1951, during the Korean War. He served as an ENT medical surgical tech at the USAF Hospital at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas where he received high praise from his commanding officer for his innate skills. In 1952, while in the service, he married his first wife, Virginia Harriman, whom he knew from Pasadena. They had three children: Michael (lost to leukemia at age three), Kimberly, and Gordon. After leaving the Air Force, Bill moved his family back to California with the intent of enrolling in a pre-med program. However, with a growing family he opted for a BA in Business Administration from San Jose State University in 1956. It proved to be a good decision. Bill’s business and sales career took off, first with Mobil Oil, then with a Scandinavian designer of mid- century modern wood furniture, Jens Risom. The latter was to guide and influence the rest of his business career and his life. With Risom, Bill found he had an affinity for contemporary design and in 1958 began his 23-year career with Knoll International, a manufacturer of iconic mid-century modern furniture designed by some of the finest architects and designers of the 20th Century. Bill excelled in marketing and sales with Knoll and collaborated with many architectural and design firms on developing corporate interiors using Knoll furniture for major company headquarters, among them Weyerhaeuser in Tacoma, Wash. in 1971.
While working on a project in San Francisco in 1975, Bill met and later married his second wife, Mardi. They often collaborated on the same projects, one of which took them to Anchorage, Alaska. While there they experienced the Northern Lights, vast glaciers, and a small plane flight over the top of Mt. McKinley. During 34 years together they returned to Alaska, traveled throughout the U.S., the Lesser Antilles islands of the Caribbean, Mexico, England, Scotland, France, and many times to Italy and Hawaii. Bill had a natural photographic eye and he enthusiastically and beautifully recorded those travels.
In 1986 Bill accomplished two personal goals, to have his own Knoll dealership and to live in Hawaii. He bought into an existing small office supply company in Honolulu and within three years turned it into a successful Knoll dealership and the top fine office furniture company in the state at the time.
Bill loved Hawaii, all the islands, the tropical beauty everywhere, the people, the language, the food and the music. Yes, he played his ukulele! He also sang with The Sounds of Aloha, a barbershop chorus of 110 male voices and dear friends. Bill’s strongest affinity was to the Big Island of Hawaii, especially the Kona coast where he visited many times and wished someday to live. Part of his ashes will be scattered there at sea.
After selling his partnership interest in the Knoll dealership in 1992, Bill and Mardi moved to Ashland, Oregon in quasi retirement (Bill retired, Mardi didn’t). They built their dream home and plunged into life in Ashland. They made many friends and enjoyed all the Rogue Valley had to offer. Bill had a fine baritone voice and sang with the Siskiyou Singers under the direction of the late Dave Marston, with the choir of First United Methodist Church in Ashland; and another barbershop chorus, The Rogue Valley Harmonizers.
Bill had an abiding interest in American history, especially the western expansion of the U.S. territory from the time of Lewis and Clark. After retirement he was able to travel the route of the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to Astoria, Ore. in a six-week trip. Also, because of his growing interest in Plains Indian tribes (Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe among many) he visited Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee as well as several old Army outpost sites. Bill became an amateur authority on what he termed The 19th Century Trans-Mississippi Frontier Expansion of our country by reading and studying. He compiled a collection of over 550 books on the subject as well as numerous Indian artifacts.
Bill lived a rich life. He was multi-talented, intelligent, witty, and humorous. He made friends easily, many of whom remained life-long friends into his last months. Bill had many physical health issues as he aged and faced each with grit and optimism that he would prevail. His mind remained sharp and clear to his dying day - literally.
He was loved by many and admired for his courage. Bill’s loss is mourned by those who cared for him and about him including: Josh, Jesse, and Debbie among many of the Ashland Brookdale staff; Eida Moore, private helper; Katie, Holly, Joyce and Ruth of Asante Hospice; and special friends Ardith and Bob Brietler, residents and table mates at Brookdale. Bill’s presence is greatly missed.
Bill is survived by his first wife, Virginia Young of Laguna Niguel, Calif. and children of that marriage, Gordon Young, San Clemente, Calif. and Kimberly Toonen, Laguna Niguel, Calif.; and Bill’s only grandchild, McKenna Toonen. Bill is also survived by his second ex-wife, Mardi, with whom he remained close and who was with him during his passing.
Bill was preceded in death by his younger brother, Bob Young, Morro Bay, Calif, and by his son, William Michael Young.
Bill’s remains will be interred at 3:00 p.m., December 4, 2017 at Eagle Point National Cemetery in Eagle Point, Ore. All who knew him and cared about him are welcome to attend.
In lieu of flowers, Bill requested a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project or Asante Hospice in his name as a fitting memorial gesture.