Harry Curtis Young, Jr.

Harry Curtis Young, Jr., 90, of Pagosa Springs, passed away on Feb. 22, 2009, and has now joined his wife, Joan Maurer Young, whom he loved for over 65 years. He was a loving husband, wonderful father of four children, and devoted scientist. His was deeply loved by numerous nieces, nephews and cousins, his four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He touched many lives, especially the Boy Scouts in Troop 15 in Stillwater, Okla.; his colleagues and graduates students at Oklahoma State University; his many friends in the International Flying Farmers, and in the Gray Wolves Ski Club which he help found in Pagosa Springs, as well as fellow parishioners in Pagosa Springs and Bayfield, Colo.

Harry Young, Jr. was born Sept. 6, 1918, in East Lansing, Mich., to Harry Curtis Young, Sr. and Lenora Barnes Young. He was raised in Wooster, Ohio, with his brother Robert, and his sister, Ada Marjorie, both of whom predeceased him. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in botany from Ohio State University and his Master of Science Degree in plant pathology from the University of Minnesota. While in graduate school he met Joan Elizabeth Maurer. As they were both from Ohio, they shared rides back home and over time they fell in love — a love that would last forever.

He married Joan on June 12, 1943, in New Haven, Conn., after enlisting in the Army Air Corps and graduating from the Photographic Laboratory Commanders School at Yale University. He was then stationed at Fort Logan in Denver, and it was during this time that he and Joan fell in love with Colorado and the mountains. During the war Harry was commissioned a captain and served in England and France where he was a Technical Supply Officer for the 379th Fighter Squadron, 362nd Group, Fighter Command, 9th Air Force.

After the war, Harry completed his Ph.D. in plant pathology and plant breeding at the University of Minnesota. Joan and Harry’s first child, Joan Ellen, was born in Minneapolis, and shortly after that they moved to Geneva, New York, where Harry was an assistant professor of plant pathology, and their second daughter Christine, and their son, Harry Curtis Young, III (Skip) were born. Joan and Harry moved to Stillwater, Okla., in 1950, where their last child, Barbara, was born and Harry was an associate professor, later professor, of botany and plant pathology at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Young was a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, a Fulbright-Hayes Senior Post-Doctoral Fellow; member of Sigma Xi, and the American Phytopathological Society amongst many groups, and worked for the Ford, Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations as well as the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT). He became professor emeritus in 1982 when he retired, and he and Joan moved to their beloved Colorado Mountains in Pagosa Springs.

Harry had several abiding interests and passions which he incorporated into his life. His love of teaching and research was his main passion during his professional life; and he shared his knowledge with a multitude of graduate students, most of whom came from other countries and became part of the Young family. When Dr. Young retired, his graduates students gave he and Joan Young an engraved plaque that read “From the four corners of the earth by his former students for his outstanding contribution as developer of young minds in man’s quest toward improved agriculture, we, his students pledge that his principles of scientific integrity and interest in mankind shall never die. We accept the challenge of passing his ideals onto the next generation and charge them with the responsibility of keeping his principles alive through subsequent generations. We wish to acknowledge Mrs. Joan Young for her warm friendship to us and our families during our student years.”

Harry loved the sport of golf, spending so much time on the links that he developed a secondary specialty in diseases of turfgrass and bent grass greens. He continued to play golf after his 90th birthday. Like many people in his generation, he was fascinated with Lindbergh’s flight and aviation in general. After establishing wheat test plots in many areas of Oklahoma, he took up flying to check his plots, and became an avid pilot — single, twin engine and instrument rated. He became a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and the International Flying Farmers, becoming Oklahoma Chapter president in 1977-79, and Oklahoma Chapter Man-of-the-Year in 1982. He owned two planes and especially enjoyed taking flights with Joan all over the country. He continued flying his plane until his late 80s.

Harry’s love of camping and nature got him involved with founding a Boy Scout troop in Stillwater. Here he encouraged many young men to become leaders, offer service, and gain self-respect. After he and Joan retired to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, he enjoyed skiing a lot, and helped organize the Gray Wolves Ski Club, a seniors group devoted to downhill and cross-country skiing. Later the group evolved and offered social events, nature walks, and golf tournaments, most of which Harry organized to a fine detail. Harry and Joan also liked to travel, and had many wonderful trips together around the United States and the world where they were able to visit with friends and former graduate students, and to experience new cultures and sights.

Harry loved his children deeply, teaching them integrity, honesty and good values, and gave all of them the curiosity to learn about the world. He and Joan made sure that their children learned about their country through firsthand experience on vacations to historic places and camping trips over the West. They never forced their children into professions, but encouraged them to find their own paths where they could be happy. Harry and Joan were both members of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Pagosa Springs; and at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Bayfield, where they are remembered for their Donut Sundays, which enabled the congregation to gather and visit after services on the first Sunday of the month. Harry was a Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus. A memorial service of the celebration of Harry Young’s life will be held at St. Bartholomew’s Church at some time in the future. The family will send out an announcement of the date and time.