It was 1958, during one of the worst blizzards to hit Northern Virginia, and Deborah Young, just five years old, remembers her father, Lehman, bundling her up and sitting her on the seat of their old blue 1951 Ford, between him and her mother, Marie.
They were in a hurry. Deborah needed her tonsils out, and Fairfax Hospital did not exist yet, so they had to drive to Children’s Medical Center in Washington for surgery.
"We lived in Vienna and there were only two-lane roads then," Deborah Young said. "I remember driving along Route 7 east of Tysons corner past the Peachtree Farm, and seeing all these cars in the ditches. I was really frightened but hoping that we wouldn’t get through, because I didn’t’ want to go to the hospital," Young said, laughing. "But my dad, he just kept driving, slow and easy, and he got us there. He could get through any kind of weather, on the ground or in the air."
On March 6, at the age of 96, Lehman Young, Sr. passed away from pneumonia. Several hundred people, including City of Fairfax Mayor Robert Lederer and city council members, attended his memorial service at the American Legion Post 177. It was a fitting place to have his service, since Young was a 65-year Legion member, past commander and had breakfast there with "the coffee crowd," nearly every morning.
"Everybody loved him. He was so full of life, and he had a heart of gold. He would give anyone the shirt off of his back. He really valued service before self. That’s the epitome of my dad."
—Daughter Deborah Young
"Everybody in the city knew him," said Robert Parli, commander of the post. "What I will always remember about him is how he would come in to the post every morning with his hat on and his cigar in his mouth. He always sat facing the door, and it finally dawned on me that he sat there so he could greet everyone. He never forgot a name."
BORN IN 1916 on Oliver Street in the Town of Fairfax, he grew up on what was then a 19-acre farm. He attended Fairfax Elementary School and graduated from Oakton High School on June 6, 1935.
According to his friends and family, he had two passions in life – aviation and printing.
In elementary school, Young had a job folding newspapers for the Fairfax County Independent Press, which operated from what is now the Fairfax Museum on Main Street. When Young was 12, the newspaper’s publisher taught him how to operate an open press and set type. While still in high school, he became a reporter for the newspaper.
Always fascinated with flying, Young became president of the Fairfax Model Airplane Club in 1930; by 1941, he had earned both his commercial license and flight instructor’s credentials. His training and skills would serve him well as a pilot during World War II.
"My dad had a strong sense of civic pride, and was active in almost everything," Deborah Young said. "Everybody loved him. He was so full of life, and he had a heart of gold. He would give anyone the shirt off of his back. He really valued service before self. That’s the epitome of my dad."
In 1929, at 13, Young "unofficially" joined the Fairfax Volunteer Fire Department. At 18, he became a member. As a longtime member of Boy Scout Troop 187, Young eventually wrote a history of the troop, the oldest in the City of Fairfax.
Young also served as grand marshal of the 2001 Independence Day Celebration, an event many say he and several patriotic buddies launched in the 1950s when they would carry flags around Fairfax High School, which was then located where Paul VI High School is now located.
In 1936, Young purchased an open press and linotype machine and started his own printing business, which he named "The Virginia Press."
A year after Pearl Harbor, in December, 1942, Young enlisted in the U.S. Navy, flying fighter planes and ferrying "war weary" aircraft, often with bullet holes and other damage, from California to cities on the east coast. Although he had his share of near crashes because of the damaged planes, the flying skills he learned in Virginia kept him airborne. Upon his release from active duty in March 1947 as a Navy Lieutenant, Young joined the Naval Reserve Command in Anacostia where he served until his retirement in 1968.
When he returned home after the war, Young became active in the American Legion, Rotary Club, Optimists and the Fairfax United Methodist Church. He helped found the city’s Chamber of Commerce and served as a member of several building committees, most notably Fairfax Hospital.
IN 1980, Young served on the committee that would eventually become Historic Fairfax, Inc., dedicated to preserving the city’s historic structures and buildings.
"My family lived at the end of Oliver Street on Keith Avenue," said Stuart Loughborough, who grew up in Fairfax and now lives in Santa Fe, N.M. "I walked by his home many times and knew that here was living history…When someone like Mr. Young dies, a big part of Fairfax history dies with him."
Young leaves behind his children - Deborah Young, Pamela Walker, Lehman H Young, Jr., Carolyn Allen and Jennifer Boyenga - five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife, Mary Young, who passed away on Feb. 11, 2012.
"He was the most handsome dad anybody could have. He was big and strong, tough as nails with a real kind heart," Deborah Young said. "He’s still my hero."