Obituary: Mary Clayton Long Young

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mary Clayton Long Young was born in a farmhouse without water or electricity in November, 1926, outside of Verona, in Middle Tennessee. She died last week at the end of a life well lived. In between, she had tea with the Emperor of Japan, lunch with the Queen of Thailand, lived around the country and the world, married my father, Ross B. Young Jr., and enjoyed a martini every day at 5 p.m. up to the day before she died. The changes-not just technical, but social and historical-in her lifetime are staggering, and she was aware of them and provided a continuing commentary to her children and friends that was founded on her belief that God is love and that answers about what to do are not that hard if you can remember that. She lived through the Great Depression, and told of her mother never turning anyone away from the farm if they were hungry or thirsty. She felt the threat of World War II, and married a dashing lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. She saw social change in the South, and refused to explain to me what the "whites only" sign meant in a laundry she was forced to use once - Dad was overseas and the washer was broken-saying instead, "It doesn't matter, we aren't coming back here ever again," as she grabbed my coat. In later life, when we were talking about current events, she also disapproved of bigotry aimed at homosexuality, believing that God made us as we are and loves us all. Mom surrounded those around her and viewed the world with this kind of love. She was the first woman in her family to go to college. She was a devoted wife to my father, and supported him in a way that is underrated now. It never occurred to her to work outside the home -- her job was running the house, raising the kids, and packing for the Sudan only to find out Dad was going to Alaska. They loved each other. She had a number of lifelong friends, especially Maurine Hale, whom she declared her "bosom-buddy" and with whom she shared many travel and life adventures, including seeing the wrong end of several rifles pointed at them when they turned around in the driveway of the Soviet Embassy in Tokyo. They consoled each other on the deaths of their husbands and the travails of life, and were always thinking and talking about each other. Mom encouraged our creativity and eccentricities, and once wrote an excuse note for school for me stating, "Ross was absent because he was not there," to cover some adventure I had undertaken. She was a librarian by training, and served in the Memphis Public Library before marriage. Later, she remade the Jones Memorial Media Center at First United Methodist Church in Oak Ridge, where she and Dad were members for many years. The only lie I am aware that Mom told me was when I asked her about the number of prior births listed on my birth certificate when I was about eight. She said they made a mistake when they filled out the form. She was reunited with her first daughter in the last decade of her life, and it made her life complete. Two days before she died she said, "When it was time to let Brenda go, I felt the pinch of God between my palm (indicating her left hand) guiding me. I knew it was the right thing to do then, but I always wondered. I am so happy [it was the right thing] and Brenda is alright."

Mary Clayton Long Young died after her husband, Ross B. Young Jr.; her brother, Charles Long; and her parents.

She is lovingly remembered by her daughters, Brenda Armstrong Eckles and Edna Louise Young; her son and daughter-in-law, Ross B. Young III and Deb Young; and grandson, Ross B. Young IV, who brought back her childhood name of "Kaki." She leaves behind best friend Maurine Hale, but taught us all, quick and dead, about love.

She will be inurned privately next to her husband at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., at Easter 2011.

In honor of all the adoptions in our family, Mom would be happy for any remembrances to be made to the Holston Methodist Home for Children.

Online condolences may be sent to Local arrangements were provided by Rose Mortuary Mann Heritage Chapel.