Kenneth Wayne Young

Young—Kenneth Wayne Young, 69, on November 4, 2016, in Richmond, Va. Wayne was born two months early on February 12, 1947, in a small hospital in Woodstock, Va. His family kept him warm by the side of the woodstove—a homemade incubator—and he grew up to be strong and healthy. His father ran a small store and gas station. Wayne loved history, especially that of his birthplace in the Shenandoah Valley, and was especially drawn to the history of the Mennonites and United Brethren in the region. After graduating from high school, he attended Ferrum College and then East Tennessee State University, graduating in 1969. His first job in his field as a social worker was for the Surrey County Welfare Department. He then moved to Richmond and worked for the Commonwealth of Virginia Health Department. In 1975, he married Sandra Sweet. Although their divorce after almost 20 years was contentious, they became good friends.

Wayne joined Richmond (Va.) Meeting in 1977. He was active for many years in the Peace and Social Concerns Committee. A born organizer, he was one of the founders of the Richmond Peace Education Center and was a mainstay of the Richmond Human Rights Coalition, planning the awards dinner every year and producing the newsletter for the coalition. He is remembered warmly for encouraging younger activists. In the 1980s and 1990s, he worked for international human rights, traveling to Nicaragua and to El Salvador, where he visited the mass graves of people murdered in the civil war; to Costa Rica, a country he loved, visiting Monteverde Friends School; and to Tel Aviv. He loved to tell about being in Bethlehem near Christmas amid the military presence there. He worked closely with the Arab American community in Richmond and wrote many letters to the editor.

Wayne was a storyteller who never lost his mountain twang and never met a stranger. He loved Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and the cigarettes he smoked almost constantly. At his memorial service, Sandy remembered him as a good man with a big heart: kind, generous, and honorable. In his work as an environmental health specialist for 35 years, he was known for his conscientious high standards. “He had a real heart and spirit for being a public servant,” a colleague said at the memorial. A Friend stood, quoting Randall Williams, who once said he hoped to live his life in such a way that when he was gone, people would not be surprised to find he was a Quaker. That was true of Wayne. Sandy and Leanne Miller, his companion, both cared for him in his final illness.

He was survived by his son, James Ira Young, who died early in 2017. His close companion, Leanne Miller; his ex-wife, Sandy Young; and three sisters survive him.

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