By: Contributed Report | Twitter: @DinwiddieMontir
Posted: June 4, 2020 | 1:30 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – Dinwiddie County is known for being a community that gives back to their fellow neighbors as charity and community service go hand-in-hand for those living and working in the county. Now, the county mourns the loss of one of those people who embodied that mindset following the sudden death of Katherine Young.
According to her family, Young, known by Kathy to many, passed away at her Dinwiddie County home on May 24 at the age of 76, leaving behind her husband of over 50 years William and son Johnny, along with a host of extended family and friends who developed a close bond with her through her decades-long life in Dinwiddie County.
A member of Dinwiddie High Schools Class of 1962 with an undergraduate degree from James Madison University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Ettrick’s Virginia State University, she would return to the county and become a fixture within Dinwiddie County Public Schools. Over the course of her 54 years with the school division, Young taught at the elementary level at the former lower school in McKenney, where she would eventually serve as assistant principal, along with holding the same title at Dinwiddie Elementary later in her career.
From there, Young became the principal of Dinwiddie Middle School before transitioning into the role of gifted programs coordinator for the school division.
Throughout her time with Dinwiddie County Public Schools, Young was remembered fondly for her warmth and love of the students she worked with and her colleagues as many turned to Facebook and social media to offer their condolences. Among them, County Administrator Kevin Massengill reflected on his first interactions with the longtime educator and community leader during his youth.
“Mrs. Young was a very special person to me, my family, and everyone that had a chance to meet her. I had the very good fortune to meet her as a student attending Dinwiddie Elementary School,” he recounted. “I witnessed first-hand her genuine passion for education and love of young people. She made each child feel special and valued.”
Dinwiddie Schools Superintendent Dr. Kari Weston praised Young for the contributions she made both in and out of the classroom, having personally been touched by her giving spirit.
“Kathy Young was a beloved member of the Dinwiddie County Public Schools’ community for her entire life,” Weston shared. “She was selfless, service-minded, and feisty when it came to young people and the world she knew they deserved. She was incredibly fearless, a little strong-willed at times, but had one of the most beautiful hearts I have ever known.”
“Her generous spirit and service to our community will live forever in the lives of those better off because of her kindness. I know because I am one of them,” she closed.
Her active life extended beyond the classroom and the halls of Dinwiddie’s educational institutions. Young was an active member of Crawford United Methodist Church, where she played the piano and organ, taught Sunday school, and took on a large role in coordinating many church events.
After departing DCPS, she became closely engaged with the county’s social services department as she worked to help those in need in Dinwiddie County. Current director Rose Mastracco recounted one of her first experiences meeting Young six years ago.
“Kathy was one of the first people I met in Dinwiddie because as Chair of the Dinwiddie DSS Board in 2014, she was on the panel to hire me. We talked about a lot of things after the interview was over and I knew right then, this was a woman with a lot of ambition,” she shared. “Through the years we worked closely together as the Board met monthly and we talked often through the weeks. She was a visionary and brought many good ideas to the Board meetings. We discussed how to help people in Dinwiddie and from that was born the Resource Council. She cared about the people in Dinwiddie, especially the children.”
Close friend Barbara Pittman, current school board chairman, served with Young in the school system and the Dinwiddie Christmas Sharing Foundation and reflected on her drive to serve the community.
“She was one of the original ‘Energizer Bunny’ people because she was always going somewhere and working on whatever project she was involved in, which always had to to do with helping someone else, from education to social services, and the Christmas Sharing Foundation,” she said, noting Young wasn’t slowed by progressive vision loss due to macular degeneration.
“As her vision declined, she really couldn’t do all she normally did so she had a gradual pullback over the last year but, even in that, she still did all the behind-the-scenes work on her telephone. She would call people and line things up,” Pittman detailed.
“Even though she wasn’t physically able to join us at some of the things we did at the Christmas Sharing Foundation, she would be coordinating who is doing pickups and doing the work even though she physically couldn’t do the work.”
The Dinwiddie Christmas Sharing Foundation has become an institution of Dinwiddie County, providing toys, gifts, and, most importantly, “a twinkle” in the eyes of the county’s children, which stands as the organization’s motto – created by Young – and its goal every year.
“For the Christmas Sharing Foundation, it was about those children,” Pittman shared. “She came up with the slogan: ‘To put a twinkle in each child’s eyes.’ She just wanted to make kids happy on Christmas Day. She did an incredible amount. We gave the presents out at Christmas but it was a full-time job for her, she did it year-round. She raised money and helped get storage facilities.”
In addition to the foundation, she also served on the county’s social services administrative board and the recently formed Dinwiddie County Social Services Advisory Board where she provided a voice for those in need in the county.
“Mrs. Young was a strong advocate for the County’s most vulnerable population,” County Administrator Massengill said of her service to the boards. “While serving, she championed numerous projects to include the newly constructed Dinwiddie Government Center, which provided Social Service with proper space to adequately serve the community. She always said God gave her a big mouth, so she wanted to be the voice for those that rarely speak.”
County social services director Mastracco said she appreciated Young’s desire to hear from the department’s staff during her time as chairman of the administrative and advisory boards.
“Many meetings would include staff to explain programs or be congratulated for work well done,” she remarked. “She planned ‘appreciation breakfasts’ and wanted to hear from employees to see how the Board could help.
A recurring theme for those talking about Young was her drive to solve problems and help those in the community, no matter the challenge set before her.
“Her whole life was about public service,” Pittman said. “Anything she had something to do with had to do with helping someone in need. Over the years, we were doing Christmas Sharing then all of a sudden, we branched out to ‘Supplies for Success,’ supplying those same children with school supplies for them to start school.”
“Whenever she saw something that needed to be done, she would ask ‘How can we fix this or help this?’ She spent a lot of her own time and resources doing that,” she continued. “The blindness only slowed her down in that she may not have been sitting in the meeting with you but, she was still doing the work behind the scenes. I expected no different because that was who she was. She was going to find a way to get it done.”
Pittman, who serves on the board of directors of the Dinwiddie Christmas Sharing Foundation admits there is a void with Young’s passing but they remain committed to carrying forth the organization’s mission at the level she would have wanted.
“We know everyone is going to want to make sure we keep this going because Kathy would be disappointed if we can do it the way she would have done it. Therefore, you just have to make sure to keep what she started because she would be disappointed if we didn’t,” she detailed, noting the seat Young used to set in during their meetings will remain vacant in honor of her.
“You can’t replace her but you can certainly keep what she started,” Pittman said.
As tributes pour in, many have said the legacy of Young will become sewn into the fabric of Dinwiddie County for years to come as those she has helped over the years share stories and express their gratitude for her being in their corner in their time of need.
“Mrs. Young lived a life of true significance,” Massengill said. “I, and countless others, are going to miss her and our frequent conversations that usually centered on how to help others and improving our community through love and kindness.”
Echoing his sentiments, Pittman added, “Her legacy is in that she was willing to give her time and personal resources to rally the community around whatever the need was, be it someone’s house burned down and they needed clothing, someone got evicted and they needed contributions to help them get another home. She just would hear about things and take them on to try and fix it.”
“In my mind, her legacy is going to be that no challenge or need was too big or too small. She was willing to pick you up and take you to the doctor, or call ten of her friends to kick in $10 apiece to help get your lights turned back on,” Pittman closed.
For many, the memories and moments they shared with Young have and will continue to warm their hearts for years to come.
“Through the years, we planned together, laughed together and she shared with me many good memories of her role as an educator. Her zeal and good ideas will be remembered for many years to come,” Mastracco said.
A memorial service for Young was held last Friday at Smyrna Baptist Church, followed by a private burial.
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