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Robert Young


A charismatic man who spent 36 years working for the City of Santa Rosa, Robert Young was described as a man who loved people and "lived hard and played hard."

Young died from complications with Parkinson's disease March 19. He was 79.

"People just took to Robert, he had such a wonderful personality," said his wife, Joan Young.

A native of Hawaii, Young was born in Honolulu on Sept. 11, 1933, the ninth of 10 children. His parents, Fong and Wong-Shee Young, immigrated to Hawaii from China.

Though Buddhist, the Youngs sent their children to a Catholic school to help them integrate into American culture. As a child, Young helped out with the family's several businesses, enjoyed hot-rods and playing sports.

A varsity football player, Young graduated from Kaimuki High School in 1952, and three years later moved to California. The 22-year-old began attending Santa Rosa Junior College, taking up tennis and making a wide variety of friends.

Young transferred to Chico State in 1958 to major in recreation administration, becoming a top star on the school's tennis team. He graduated in 1960 with his bachelor's degree.

Returning to Santa Rosa, Young took a job with the Santa Rosa Recreation and Parks Department where he worked for 36 years.

He met Joan in 1962, and they were married three years later. She was divorced with two children and their marriage — which involved a Chinese man marrying an Italian woman — was questioned by some, but Joan Young said he remained unconcerned.

Young became a father to her two children, and in 1967 the Youngs had a child of their own. Their children attended St. Rose School, where Young started a track program so the kids could experience sports.

During his tenure with city, Young founded and developed multiple programs. He became a tri-county coordinator for the Amateur Softball Association, started the archery program and received dozens of accolades for his work with youth sports.

"He encouraged us to know our community and know the people of our community that we served," said Mike Milano, who worked with Young for 15 years. "He wanted the best out of all of us."

He retired in 1992, but kept a busy schedule of gardening, raising pigeons, making birdhouses and running marathons. He also continued playing tennis, rising to become one of the city's highest-ranked players.

"I once saw him break a tennis racket because a match hadn't gone well," said his wife. "He was just so competitive."

Young was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2004, but remained active until 2010, when the impacts of the disease began to take their toll.

"He was a treasure for the city of Santa Rosa and its people," said Milano. "He enjoyed it and had fun in the process."

Young is survived by his wife, Joan Young of Santa Rosa, their three children, Kari Taeuffer of Santa Rosa, Norman Gregg of Santa Rosa, Tony Young of Beijing, China, and six grandchildren.

Funeral services will held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, at St. Rose Catholic Church, 398 Tenth St., Santa Rosa. The service will be followed by a reception in the St. Rose Parish Hall. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the National Parkinson Foundation.