Robert A. Young

Image of  Robert A. Young

Robert A. Young Sr.

Coal Company & Young Lumber

Laureate 2004

Business has always been a family affair for The Young’s. Bob’s grandfather, JB Young, started Young Coal Company in the 1880s and then sold the company to his son, John Arthur in 1905. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1932, Bob joined his father’s company. When John Arthur retired, he sold the company to Bob and his two brothers, John and Dick. Each of the brothers had their own responsibilities within the company, and Bob specialized in sales. Though Bob had already graduated college, he was always a lifelong student, visiting other mines to gain as much knowledge and experience in the industry as possible. Once the Coal Company was moving full steam ahead., the brothers bought Watkins’ Lumber Company and renamed it Young Lumber Company. Challenges arose as economic times changed and the natural gas pipeline was introduced. The Young brothers faced these challenges with diversity, expanding their business to include metal, plumbing and land development. Coal was certainly the focus of this three-generation business, but with the every-growing popularity of natural gas, it was the plumbing and heating branches that had to adapt to change for survival. When Young Coal Company closed its doors in 1987, the 107-year old business had seen three generations of Young’s.

Bob’s professional interests included not only Young Lumber and Young Coal, but also the Waterloo Savings Bank and Black Hawk Broadcasting. Though it seems Bob wouldn’t have time for more than his commercial interests, his civic leadership alone could have kept most people busy. The R.J. McElroy Trust, YMCA, Grout Museum, Waterloo Rotary Club, among others, all considered Bob a best friend. Spare time was at a premium for Young, but the Iowa Hawkeyes and Waterloo Industrial Development Association could also always count on his support. Young’s extensive community involvement earned him a Mayor’s Volunteer Performance Award in 1981. He was dedicated to, and optimistic about, the organizations he considered most worthwhile.
Friends would say that Bob’s associations and his accomplishments only tell part of the story of who Bob was and how he’ll be remembered. Despite his high public profile, Bob was a private man. In his own quiet way though, his love for people and his ability to enjoy life were abundantly clear.

In addition to his devotion to his wife Edith and his family, those who knew Bob well speak of his tremendous loyalty – loyalty to his family, his state, his community and to those who had helped and loved him during formative times of his life. Bob was a man who was disciplined in all areas and committed to always looking for the good in people. He encouraged anyone with a firm goal and willingness to work toward that goal, regardless of traditional limitations, to go for it. Bob will always be remembered as a powerful voice that reminded us that money is of value only insofar as it helps people and that people are valuable and worthy of our support. He gave the Cedar Valley a renewed sense of community spirit, dedication, hard work and vision.

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