Death of an Icon

As I write this, my husband is on his way to Kentucky. He is going to attend the funeral of a mentor of sorts, the man who introduced him to American Saddlebred horses. James Howard Young truly was a legend in his own time.

He loved his family, history, Saddlebed horses, antiques, the South, and pageantry. Everyone who knew him could quote one or more of his colorful sayings, some more politically correct than others. He was a teacher and his obituary said that he read three books to his students every day: The Bible, Gone with the Wind and the works of Shakespeare. I used to pass him on my way to work. He was heading to school, shaving as he drove. There just weren’t enough hours in the day for all of the living he wanted to do.

We used to think he was born a century too late. When an old mansion went up for sale he bought it and had it moved and attached to his farm house. He hosted his children’s weddings in the yard, and I remember him wading in the fountain in his tuxedo with the legs rolled up when the water wasn’t flowing as he wished.  He lived large in every sense of the word. Peacocks and broodmares wandered in the background. Local friends and relatives mingled with music producers arriving by limousine.

His wife Gwen is the essence of southern gentility. She had her own career in social work and joined James Howard in encouraging their children to follow their dreams. Richard and Fred Young spent their high school years playing music. An old tenant house became their rehearsal space. The Itchy Brothers Band was popular at local venues before eventually landing record contracts and becoming The Kentucky Headhunters. They won Nashville awards and continue to tour today with their own brand of country rock. They bought Elvis Pressley’s tour bus. Richard’s son is a member of Blackstone Cherry, a rock band very much in demand in Europe. But the boys always come home. Fred to a cabin he built on the farm with his lovely wife, Marla, and Richard to his grandmother’s  restored home lovingly decorated by his wife, Cindy.

Daughter Mary Jane spent a few years in Virginia, but married a surgeon and returned to the area.

For our wedding present, James Howard commissioned a painting of his grandmother, my husband’s great grandmother. Such a typical gesture. He knew the lineage of all of his people and all of his horses. He never was wealthy, but found ways to follow his passions. “Can’t” was not a word in his vocabulary.

Hail, James Howard, for a life well lived, all 93 years of it. You will no doubt be organizing Heavenly spectacles to greet us all.



Filed under writing

2 responses to “Death of an Icon

  1. Such a wonderful tribute, Susan!

  2. What a beautifully written post. I was born and raised a southern girl, and your words brought me ‘there’, and also to James Howard Young.

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