Eulogy for Kenneth C. Young 1934-2019

I want to thank everyone for coming out this morning to help honor my father Kenny Young. And it’s great to see such a big group of people here. We’ve passed out a little prayer card this morning that has “The Prayer of St. Francis” in the front of it. And at the end I’ll offer a prayer of thanksgiving and then I will invite you to pray “The Prayer of St. Francis” with me.

The reason I chose that particular prayer is because it starts out with the phrase “Lord make me an instrument of your peace”. And I think of… When I think of words that describe my father I think “peaceful” and “patient” are the first words that come to mind. No matter what life threw at him, he always took it in stride. He never got upset about anything. And he had a lot of challenges in his life.

His father was an alcoholic. He had to deal with my disability. Mom and dad had five premature babies that only lived a day or so. Plus multiple other miscarriages that my mother and dad had to endure. The fact that my uncle, his brother, is hearing impaired was a challenge to their family. And all of these things he took in stride. He would always roll with the punches. Nothing ever got him down. He was good in a crisis.

He just had this quiet calm that kind of provided a good balance to my mother who was kind of frenetic at times… A high-energy person. (chuckles) and so that’s why they made such a good couple. I don’t ever remember him yelling at us as kids. You know a lot of times people say “Wait till your father gets home!” We were glad when dad got home! (laughter) He was a calming force. You know… Yeah we wanted dad to get home. Get get mom off our back! (laughter) So that… that calm and peaceful kind of demeanor is the first thing that I think about my father.

Some examples… One day Carol when she was a teenager was driving down the road… Got the van caught in a snow drift and flipped it on its roof and totaled the van. And he was still… I mean he was upset. He was worried. He was glad she was okay. But he just stayed calm. You would think he would rant and rave and carry on… He didn’t do that.

Karen was telling me this story. One time she woke up one morning and went outside and her car had caught fire overnight. The entire interior of the car had been completely gutted and burnt itself out. We got no idea how it happened. He went out, looked at it, mumbled a couple of expletives, walked right back in the house calm and collected. No worries. No problem. So he was a very calm and quiet man.

He also had a great deal of patience. Let me see a show of hands… How many people did he teach to waterski?

(About a dozen people raised their hands. Judy Chapman said “or tried”. Laughter throughout)

Or tried to teach to waterski. There is one he tried and failed. (More laughter)

I mean… How patient did he have to be? He probably drug you behind that boat for hours and hours. And then when you finally got up he’d drag you around the lake until you wore out. You know that kind of patience is is such a virtue. And was really a gift of his.

Now he did have… He wasn’t an emotionless person. He did have feelings and emotions but he didn’t let them get out of control. He just stayed calm and collected. And I think like a lot of men, he was uncomfortable with some of the mushy things… You know mushy expressions of love. He would rarely say the words “I love you”.


But you know you hear people on TV and in movies and they say (in whiny voice) “Oh my father never told me he loved me.” and their life was ruined by it. Well… Dad was always THERE for us. We didn’t need to hear “I love you”. EVERYTHING he did was an act of love. So if he didn’t say the words out loud, we didn’t feel cheated by that. We never felt a loss by that.

And I think the prime example is the joke my mom used to tell. She would say “I’ll ask Kenny ‘Do you love me?’ and his response always was (grumpily) ‘I’m here ain’t I?'” (huge laughter).

So… I don’t know if that meant you know… If I couldn’t… If I didn’t love you I wouldn’t have put up with you all these years or… But I think it’s more his philosophy that the way that he showed love was by being there. He was always showing up. He understood that showing up was the biggest part of a relationship. Just his presence… Being there for you when you needed him was the way to show his love and his… his feelings for you.

And so that sort of brings me to the next words that I think about him and that is his loyalty. That he expressed his love by being loyal to… to friends and family. He was always there to help you if you had a home improvement project. Or you know if you needed a phone cable run or cable TV, he’d crawl through your attic or in your crawl space… run cables for you. He’d fix water heaters. He’d do plumbing. He could do just about anything. It wasn’t just the sheet metal that he was famous for. He could fix anything. So he was always there for friends and family to fix things.

He would also… Talk about him being there. He was always there when mom or I were in the hospital. Mom was very sick and in intensive care and in a coma for 19 days. And he was there by her side every single day. Every day he would go up there and just sit in the ICU and read a book just to be next to her.

Two years ago when I was in the hospital after I got my trach. He was coming every day. And he me wasn’t getting around to get in those days too. And the weather forecast one day was for an ice storm. And I said “Dad stay home. The roads are going to be terrible.” I told everybody on Facebook “Dad won’t be coming today with that weather forecast.” All of a sudden he shows up! I said “What are you doing here? I told you to stay home. The roads were terrible.” He said “Well it was pretty tough in Eagledale but when you when you got on the main…” I said “Yeah how the hell did you get out of Eagledale when the roads were solid ice?” He said “Well… I didn’t have anything better to do.” (laughter) So you know being there and being loyal, and always showing up was really his gift.

[A story I had intended to tell but left it out of my live presentation. He also cared about his friends and coworkers when they were sick. He would visit them. His coworker George Yeager was seriously ill with emphysema. He was on oxygen and couldn’t leave the house because he was so weak. Dad would visit him regularly. After he passed away, dad would check-in on his family from time to time.]

He was very loyal to his friends. He had lifelong friendships with people here today. The Byrams and the Brakes and the McGraws and these people are all people that have met in my life because they were in his life lifelong. For years our partners at the lake.

And he treated his fans like family. These people that I mentioned you’re like extra aunts and uncles to me and that’s because Dad treated you like brothers and sisters. And so you’re family. And so we’ve taken it out up in that me and my sisters… our friends are like family to us as well. We follow in his example.

One of the ways that dad expressed his, his loyalty and his commitment to his friends was through his hospitality. He enjoyed going to the lake but he enjoyed it even more when we could have company there and have friends there. And we would invite huge crowds of people especially on like Fourth of July weekends. And he would stand there and cook hamburger after hamburger after hamburger. I don’t know how many thousands of hamburgers he grilled in his time (laughter). And by the time he got done to sit down to eat, half of us had already finished. And he never complained once. He just was a very hospitable person.

That hospitality extended to having houseguests. When Carol’s friend Laura was having problems with her family and needed somewhere to go we had Laura move in with us for a while. And he was very hospitable to her and never complained.

My Grandma Osterman spent the last five years of her life living with us. And my mother struggled to take care of all of us. And it was, it was a strain on the family but he never complained. He was always very supportive. He understood how important it was for grandma to be here among our family. And he understood how important it was for my mom to be able to do that for her out of love. And so he supported that even though it was a great strain on our family. And, and we see those traditions carrying on today.

His loyalty also extended to his coworkers and especially to the union. He was a very proud union man. He enjoyed his work in sheet-metal and was so dedicated to the trade that he wanted to pass what he had learned on to other people. So he actually taught night school to train sheet metal workers in the night school apprentice program. He served on the credit union credit committee helping to approve the loans so that other sheet-metal workers could buy a car or, or pay their bills. He saw that as an important thing. And even though you probably think of my mother and I as being the political activists of the family, when the union would have a rally at the Statehouse he would show up for a rally when the union called. Whether it was a right to work or a prevailing wage law that was on the line he was always there for the union.

And so as we start talking about his work, I think the next topic that I think about my dad is I would describe my dad as a master craftsman. He loved his work. He always wanted to be a sheet-metal worker. My grandfather worked in sheet-metal. He was anxious in high school to take the metal shop. It was his favorite subject. Immediately after high school he went into the apprentice program, became a journeyman, and a master sheet-metal worker. And he worked at the trade until he retired.

He was very proud of his work. He made things out of metal for the fun of it. You know you’d think if you’d beat on sheet-metal all day long… you wanna to go home and not have… and not see another piece of metal again. But, but he liked doing stuff after hours. He would go into the shop on weekends and make little projects and big projects and things.

He could fix just about anything. He had… Funny thing… one day something was wrong with the chandelier over our dining room table. It was flickering or doing weird or something and mom asked him to look at it. So he went and reached up and just looked at it and all of a sudden it fixed itself. (laughter) Like just him looking at it was magic or something. He didn’t know what he did. He jiggled a wire or something. Mom says “What did you do?” He said “I looked into it.” (big laughter). That got to be a running joke. Anytime he tried to fix something, and it worked, and he didn’t know what he did to fix it, he would just say “I looked into it” and that got to be the running joke.

Before we talk about all of his sheet-metal work, let’s, let’s talk about other things that he did. He poured a lot of concrete in his day. We had a beautiful patio at the back of our house in the early years. Unfortunately it got covered up by the concrete of our room addition a few years later. He poured all of the concrete at the lake, the foundation for the cabin, that big long sidewalk that goes all the way down the hill, and the patio at the bottom. He did all of that.

He could do carpentry. He basically designed and built our cabin at the lake. He built the addition on the back of our house. He could do plumbing. He could do electrical.

The addition on the back of our house was one of his favorite stories. My mom wanted a dishwasher. Adding to the house was all about the dishwasher. We had this tiny kitchen. The refrigerator, stove, washer and dryer all in the kitchen… no room for a dishwasher. “I gotta have a dishwasher”. So well will add something onto the house. So we tore up the old bathroom. Made it into a laundry room. Well you aren’t just going to add a bathroom… while you’re adding on you need a family room. And well you know with eight years difference between me and Carol and another eight between Carol and Karen. We ought to each have our own bedroom. So will make a new master bedroom for mom and dad and then us kids each get a bedroom. Well mom likes to entertain, so we needed a big family room. In the end we doubled the footage… square footage of our house. Dad says “It’s the dam most expensive dishwasher ever bought!” (big laughter)

So like I said, he designed and built all of that. He built the cabin at the lake. The only thing that he hired out was had a bulldozer come in and dig out the basement. And someone put up the concrete block. But everything else him and his friends did and it was all his design and supervision.

He built every kind of gadget for me that I could ever design. Every kind of assistive technology you can think of:. I had a floating motorized chair that I could swim around in at the lake, he built the lift for our van, for the van that we had. He built every kind of bracket and gadget and computer tables and he wired up a ton of micro switches that let me push buttons and operate things. In fact, the very last thing that he made for me was a pushbutton that I’m going to probably use as a nurse call button. He wired that up one month ago today on January 14th. So up to the very very end he was building gadgets for me. And whether I end up using that button or not, that’s going to be something I really cherish because it was the last wire he ever soldered.

Let’s talk about the things that he made out of metal. Like I said before he made the lift for the van. He built our first pontoon boat. He built the rowboat. The metal spiral staircases in the cabin. He built dock ladders. Two or three different ladders for our dock. One letter for the Roells. He was mad at my uncle John. He built them a dock ladder and the next year they sold the property and the ladder went with it. (laughter) He said “if I knew they were going to sell the damn thing I wouldn’t have given them is a ladder. (laughter) Sorry about that guys… That’s what he said. (Cousin Kathy spoke up “I didn’t want him to sell it either.”) Yeah.

I want to talk about the things that he did for work. I put together that poster that’s at the back of the room that many of you’ve seen. If you haven’t had to look at it, I encourage you to do so on your way out this afternoon. The different things that he did when he worked in the various sheet-metal shops touched the lives of countless number of people.

In the early years it was ordinary ductwork for heating and air conditioning. There’s probably miles of ductwork hanging in buildings in this city that my dad fabricated and installed. He did a lot of work in commercial kitchens. In hospitals and schools and restaurants that have ventilation systems and stainless steel countertops that he installed. You may have eaten a meal that was prepared on one of his countertops. Just think maybe thousands of people have eaten those meals.

He worked on metal sculptures. There is a jewelry store downtown that has a large metal sculpture that looks like a diamond but it’s made out of stainless steel and it’s hanging in front of the jewelry store. People walk by it every day.

There is a hospital that has a huge metal sculpture that looks like leaves there’s a photo of it on the poster. Then he helped fabricate and install. One of his bosses designed metal sculptures.

Many years ago when they renovated Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral downtown he refinished the brass doors on the front of the building. They were all tarnished and corroded. He had to take them down. And he said he couldn’t get the screws out. He had to drill out the screws and the rivets. And he cleaned… He took them back to the shop, refinished them. Sent them off to be coated in some special coating so that they would stay untarnished in the future. Then he reassembled everything and put them back up. Every week hundreds of people walk through the doors that were refurbished by my dad.


[Another story I had intended to tell but forgot… Years ago when they refurbished our Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Monument Circle downtown his shop replaced the window frames and the roof on top of the monument. There are photos on the poster showing the work they did. You can see the metal loops where they hang the Christmas lights each year. My dad was personally responsible for installing metal loops that hold Christmas lights that are seen by thousands of people every year as a visit downtown Indianapolis during the holidays.]

At Eli Lilly company on the south side they had these huge machines that are as big as our house, he said, that make capsules for the medicine. And there are all sorts of heaters and vents and stainless steel shoots and different things that these capsules go through. How many millions of doses of medicine have slid down a stainless steel shoot that my dad built? And how many lives have been saved by those medicines? It’s got to be thousands… Maybe even millions!

In later years one of the clients at his shop was a man named Gus Fleming and Gus was a brilliant engineer. Kind of absent-minded professor kind of guy. Kind of scruffy looking but still brilliant. He invented a machine that tests the turbine blades on jet engines. It would blow air over the blades and tell you if they were worn out or not. And when dad worked in the shop he helped fabricate those machines and then after he retired he went back to work part-time for Fleming to help them out by installing equipment and making the fittings that hold the turbines in place. They must’ve made dozens, perhaps hundreds of these machines and shipped them all over the world wherever they refurbish jet engines. Hundreds and hundreds of jet airplanes… maybe thousands have been tested on the machines that my dad built and literally millions of passengers have flown on airplanes whose jet engines were made safe by a machine that my dad helped to build.

Imagine the legacy that he has left! Literally millions of people have benefited by his skills… by the things that he did… the things that he built. That is an amazing legacy!

I want to talk in particular about a couple of projects that he did as a volunteer and that was something that he did for St. Gabriel’s. Fr. Paul who is here with us today, said “We need a new baptismal fountain at St. Gabriel’s”. And he got a parishioner to draw up a sketch of what it should look like. We showed it to my dad and he said “Yeah I can build that.” So he built… Actually he built two of them. He built one out of aluminum or stainless, some cheap material because he wanted to make sure that it works first. And once he was sure the design would work and the water would flow the way it was supposed to… then they went and bought a piece of very expensive polished brass. And he built a very beautiful fountain. And are some photographs of it on the poster in the back of the room. And we used that fountain to baptize hundreds of children for many years. We have a new fountain when we renovated the church but we used that fountain for many years.

He also built a very beautiful Advent wreath that we used, out of metal, and we used it for many years. And he did these things not necessarily because my mom or I asked him to. He did it because he loved making things out of metal. And he saw a need. And he wanted to help out.

You know… He wasn’t Catholic. He wasn’t religious. To the best of my knowledge he didn’t pray. Or he never talked about it. He was very curious about religion. He watched a lot of documentaries on History Channel and Learning Channel about religion. And we would talk about religion a lot. There were people that he worked with who were very, very strict fundamentalists. The people who think that God created the world in EXACTLY 6 days. And took everything very literally. And he was amazed that they could have such strong faith that they would take this literally to some kind of silly extremes. My apologies if there’s anybody who’s fundamentalist that way. But he really admired that they can have that faith that would make them believe just because the Bible said so. I think he… he might’ve wished that he had that faith but he just couldn’t find it anywhere.

So… What do we say about his soul? A man who had no religion. Who didn’t go to church. He was baptized but he didn’t practice any faith. What can we say about him?

Well there was a period of my life where I was away from the church as well. I wasn’t exactly atheist but I guess you would call me a devout agnostic. (laughter). Okay… Where I just, I just wasn’t sure I believed any of that stuff and it wasn’t important to me. And I didn’t want anything to do with it. And kind of like my dad I actually did some volunteer work for St. Gabriel even when I wasn’t a believer. I helped them with some computer things in those early days. But when I did come back to the church, I came across a scripture passage that really spoke to me. And I think it, it tells us something about my dad. So I’d like to share it with you.

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.

’Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’

Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This is the word of the Lord.

We will be judged by our actions. This is how this Scripture tells us we will be judged. It’s not that we earn our way into heaven through our actions but our actions illustrate the kind of person that we are on the inside. In Matthew 7 it says “By their fruits you shall know them.” And so by my dad’s fruits we shall know him as well.

And the interesting thing about this passage is, all of these righteous people who were doing good things… Didn’t realize they were doin’ it for God! Lord when did we do these things for you? I didn’t know I was doing it for you? I was just helping people. I didn’t know I had a life of ministry. I didn’t know I was serving Your Will.

And neither did my dad. He didn’t realize that all of the good things that he had done his whole life long… all of the things that he had accomplished that touched MILLIONS of people… was God’s work!

But God knew. And God will say to him “You are among the righteous. And to you goes eternal life.”

So today I have no doubt about my dad’s soul. Because he checks all of the boxes in Matthew chapter 25. He put food on our table. He put clothes on our back. He took care of us when we were sick. He visited us and his friends when they were sick. He helped his friends. He welcomed the strangers into his home and took care of their needs. He helped millions of people who he never met and he checks all the boxes and he is certainly in paradise.

Now it says… that… You know the church has certain people who we declares to be “Saints” but technically anyone who is in heaven is a saint. And I have no doubt that the word “saint” applies to my dad. Despite all of his life’s challenges he was a peaceful, patient, loving, loyal, hard-working person who shared his God-given gifts with the world.

Our family today attempts to follow in his footsteps. We try to do the same things that he did. We try to be as loving and as caring and to be there for our friends and to be there for one another. We try to have the same hospitality. We try to treat our friends as family. So his life challenges all of us to follow these virtues and to behave the same way. To look at ourselves and say “How can we be of service to one another? How can we the friend, and the neighbor, and the hard-working person? How can we use our God-given gifts and talents the way my father did to help the world a better place because we were here?” That’s the challenge. That’s the legacy that my father leaves us and we should strive to follow in his footsteps. A great legacy. A powerful legacy.

And if we do… If we can check all the boxes in Matthew chapter 25 the way that my dad did, we will share in eternal life as well.

I’d like to now offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the life of my father. And at the end I will invite you to join me in “The Prayer of St. Francis” in your pamphlet. And pray that we can emulate some of the virtues that my father had.

Heavenly Father we thank you and we praise you for the life of my father Kenny Young. We thank you for making him such a calm and peaceful presence in our life. A steadfast friend. A loyal friend who was always there… always ready to help… always to just sit by our side or to fix things or to make things. We thank you that we had the opportunity to know him, to love him, to feel his love, to feel his presence, and to grow and to learn by his example.

Open our hearts that we might emulate his virtues. That we might look within ourselves at what God-given gifts and talents that you’ve given us that we might share it with the world. And help us always to be aware that no matter whether we realize it or not, all of the good is that we do for one another, we in fact do for you.

He was such a peaceful person. So let’s pray together “The Prayer of St. Francis”.

[Note: the printed version of the pamphlet they left out the third line so we recited it as printed but below is the proper form. Also I reversed “understood as to understand” when I recited it. Psychoanalyze that one will you. 🙂 Everyone else got it right.]

 

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
[where there is injury, pardon;]
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

We ask all of this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I want to thank all of you for being here on behalf of my sisters Carol and Karen, my uncle Keith, all the grandkids and great grandkids. You are all his great friends and colleagues and family. And if anyone should ask you “Did you love Kenny Young?” You can say “I’m here ain’t I?” (big laughter)

So thank you all for coming. I also want to thank the mortuary staff for being so gracious and hospitable to us. And they’ve been a real blessing during this time. We are going to have a little gathering back at my house. We are going to wait and see how many people show up and maybe order some pizza and we got some drinks. So anyone who would like to come and visit for a while would be welcome to come.

So now I will turn it over to our director here and he will invite you to pay your last respects to my father.

[Funeral director:] Kenneth Young in honor of the love and memories and the legacy that you leave behind we offer you a final blessing. May the road rise up to meet you. May the sun shine upon your face. May the rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

[Me:] I should mention that we will not be going to the cemetery. There is no graveside service. So this concludes our program for today.

 

[Here is a YouTube version of the eulogy]

Here is a link to his obituary on the Stevens Mortuary website. It includes a video that the mortuary put together from images we provided.
https://stevensmortuary.net/tribute/details/1286/Kenneth-Young/obituary.html