Remembering Robert W. Young II: A Gentle Giant With a Passion for Hospitality

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Courtesy / Clay Reeves

Robert Young enjoys a birthday celebration at a neighbor's home in April 2008.

A 2018 New Year’s Eve Facebook post by Robert W. Young II marks an anniversary: On December 31st 1998 when least expected I fell in love with the man of my dreams

The man of Young’s dreams is Clay Reeves, production editor for the Rivard Report, who described his husband as “always a gregarious personality.” The two met in 1998 and spent 15 years as a couple before being married in 2013, again marking New Year’s Eve with a special occasion.

Young died suddenly June 6 at age 60 from complications of coronary artery disease. Known as “R.W.” by those close to him, Young is survived by Reeves; sisters Carol and Loretta Young; nephew Arthur Gregory Pugh, his wife Angela, and their daughter Dorean Pugh; nephews and niece Connor, Logan, and Chloe Kastner; nephew Richard McNamara; other in-laws and cousins; and “countless close friends,” Reeves said.

Clay Reeves and Robert Young pose for a photo at a friend’s house in January 2008.

Young was preceded in death by nephew Jonathan McNamara, brother William Pugh, and parents Edna Young and Rev. Robert W. Young Sr. of Hampton, Virginia.

Young’s older sister Carol said their father, a Southern Baptist minister, would have much preferred that Robert join him fixing cars in the garage, rather than helping sisters and mom cook in the kitchen. That trend started early, Carol said, with a 5-year-old Robert making mud pies on an old, unused stove in the backyard.

“Mom was very upset,” Carol said, especially because he had taken her newest pots and pans from the kitchen for his experiment. “I can see her now with her hands on her hips, [saying] ‘I’m gonna whip his ass with my new pot,’” but she didn’t spank him, instead making Robert clean up the mess he’d made.

“He loved cooking, and that was probably his first meal,” Carol said. Edna’s love for her son shone through that day, and in her ongoing support for her son’s interests, she said.

“Cooking, baking, and entertaining were his true passion,” Reeves said of Young. “He put love in everything he made,” including his special 20-pound pecan pies and the collard greens he regularly made for the Soulfully Done restaurant on Naco Perrin Boulevard, which Young helped open in the late 1990s.

Robert Young shows off a rubber chicken that he discovered tied to his apron while making pecan pies and other baked goods for Christmas 2005. Friends who had attended his Halloween party that year were responsible.

“He knew how to cook soul food because he had his mom and seven other aunts to teach him,” Carol said. “His collard greens would always sell out in moments,” thanks in part to the lean salted pork he preferred to keep the greens from becoming too oily.

Though Young worked professionally as a cook and menu consultant at the Hotel Sands resort in Barra de Navidad, Mexico, during winter tourist seasons, his main profession was as a licensed insurance agent for Nationwide Insurance. Young was promoted to workforce management, responsible for scheduling thousands of associates in operations centers across the country, Reeves said.

Young was popular, having been elected senior class president at Pembroke High School in Hampton, and attracted many friends wherever he went, Reeves said. He also routinely helped out anyone in need that he encountered, Carol said.

Young’s giving nature was learned from his mother, who came from a family of 11 children, Carol said. “They were extremely poor,” she said, which taught them the meaning of generosity. “It’s just always been that way, if you see need, and you have the ability to help in some way, you do that. … That was our way of life, and it still is.”

Young helped his sister out when she needed it, she said, including when she left a bad marriage in Hampton. The two set out with a friend, choosing Texas as a new home because Carol loved the popular 1980s television show Dallas, and was inspired in particular by one of the characters. “One of the characters was leaving her husband and planning her escape, so that put the spirit in me,” she said. “I know it’s TV, but if that person can do it, I can plan my escape too.”

They tried Houston first, but came to San Antonio because it was easier to find work. Robert took a job at the Gunter Hotel, where as night supervisor he met Patrick Skees. The two became lifelong friends.

The 5-foot-7 Skees laughed as he reminisced about first meeting the 6-foot-6 Young. “I’m small-stature guy,” Skees said. “When I saw him I was so scared. I’d never seen a black man that big,” having grown up in the small town of Von Ormy. “We have those preconceived notions you grow up with, small town images of people,” Skees explained. “Luckily you get over ’em.”

Young extended a warm and welcoming hand, Skees said, and the two clicked instantly. “He laughed when I told him that story, he loved it,” Skees said. “He was just a gentle giant.”

Carol concurred. “Robert reminds me of Granddaddy, because he was a kind and gentle man,” she said, speaking of George Young, who passed away at a young age, she said.

“People gravitated to him until the day he left this earth,” she said of Robert. “He was a lot of fun and he could make you laugh.”

Asked what he would miss most about his “amiga,” as the two called each other, Skees said, “You don’t find too many friends you can be open with totally. You find one or two in your lifetime, and he was mine. … My amiga was true to the very end.”

A memorial service for Robert W. Young II was scheduled for Saturday, July 6, at 2 p.m. at the David J. and May Bock Woodward House, 1717 San Pedro Ave.

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