Valley Lives - Irvine Young

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the January 15, 2014 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Wakefield bids adieu to the miller's son

by Joel Balsam

A member of one of Wakefield's oldest families dies on Dec. 31, 2013 at 73.

Valley Lives
Irvine Young takes a swing at Edelweiss.

It's not every day that you hear about an elderly person who enjoys being out and about as much as Irvine Young did.

Every Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m., Young could be found with a gang of old-timers slouched over the table playing cribbage at Le Hibou. Then, as Young's routine went, he would head over to the Alpengruss café where he sat like a fixture on his stool for hours, eating, talking, and listening to stories.

"Irvine always knew who was who, and could give information about anyone," said local Michael Kinghorn who frequently caught Young around town socializing in Wakefield's cafés and restaurants. Perhaps it's fitting for a town with so much to do and which is on the edge of an enormous natural playground to have had such a key member of its community being so active.

"Irvine was one of the most prominent community members," said Barry Schwerdfeger, a long-time friend and the person who gave the eulogy at Young's funeral on Jan. 4. "If you found someone who didn't know him, they haven't been around here long."

And not many have been in Wakefield as long as Young and his ancestors. His great-greatgreat-grandfather was William Fairbairn, a Scottish immigrant who, in 1835, started construction on Wakefield's famous landmark grist mill. Young's family worked the mill for generations, including his own father Ken Young, who managed business operations and stored tools in the small family home right beside the mill.

Valley Lives
Irvine Young receives a Life Membership Award from the Royal Canadian Legion in June, 2013.

Irvine himself spent some of his younger years working at the mill, but in his twenties he found a career with the government at the Department of National Defence as a civilian office worker. At the turn of the millennium, Young sold the white house by the mill to Bob Milling and Lynn Berthiaume who turned it into a spa as part of the Mill Hotel and Spa - but Young never left town.

Valley Lives
Irvine Young's father Ken Young (left), and uncles Ernie Young (middle) and Orville Brown (right), at the Wakefield grist mill.

Even if he didn't feel that the miller life was right for him, he was an extremely active volunteer in the Wakefield community. Young spent 40 years with the Wakefield branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and was named president four times. In June 2013, he was honoured with a lifetime membership. During his long tenure at the legion, he organized horseshoe, darts, baseball, and golf tournaments, and raised thousands of dollars in the process. As current vicepresident of the legion, Schwerdfeger said: "I could never dream about doing as much for the Legion as Irvine."

Young's other volunteer contributions to Wakefield included coaching women's broom-ball and softball leagues at the Community Centre and volunteering as a firefighter. He also started a local hunting club; he and his buddies would go out and shoot deer, ducks, and moose. Sometimes, Young and his friends would hold friendly competitions against the RCMP. "He had a very good shot," attested cousin and hunting mate Sterling Brown, who added with a smile: "I was better, but he had a really good shot."

Valley Lives
The miller house beside the Wakefield grist mill.

As proven by his passions, sports and the great outdoors were a huge theme in Young's life, even as a senior. For the last seven or eight years, Young played golf at least once a week and he hit extremely well.

As Schwerdfeger recalled in his eulogy: "They say that only 10% of golfers can score under 100 and he would often play between 95 & 105 - not bad for a senior, I'd say. And I would always get one of his big, hearty laughs when I'd say to him "Geez, Irv, I hope I can do that when I'm that old."

Young often took trips with his life partner Evelyn Stephens, travelling to Alaska and the Eastern Townships. Young did not want to have kids of his own, but Stephens' daughter Cathy said he was like a father figure to her and her sister, Wendy. Young was also involved in the lives of the children of his five brothers and sisters, and was particularly pleased when sister Janet's son, Trent, contributed to keeping his beloved hunting club alive.

All around, Young was "a good guy," according to Schwerdfeger, who said he never heard anyone say a bad word about him. Schwerdfeger added that if there was one thing that Young always wanted, it was to encourage more people to join the Legion. Call 819-459-2913 to sign up.

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