Kind and gen­er­ous with ‘a pas­sion for Hamil­ton’

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - DANIEL NOLAN dnolan@thes­pec.com 905-526-3351 | @dan­dun­das

Prom­i­nent Hamil­ton busi­ness­man and phi­lan­thropist Wil­liam Young is be­ing re­mem­bered as a man who touched many with his kind­ness, good hu­mour and pas­sion for the city.

Young — who died April 21 at the age of 98 — came from a fam­ily that could trace its roots back to 1820 Hamil­ton when Scot­tish mer­chant John Young set­tled here, then to the found­ing of the Hamil­ton Cot­ton Com­pany in 1880 by his grand­fa­ther James Ma­son Young.

Wil­liam Young, a for­mer An­caster res­i­dent who spent his last years in a Toronto nurs­ing home, was also the un­cle of Bob Young, owner of the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats.

Such was the promi­nence of the Young fam­ily that when Wil­liam mar­ried his wife Joyce on May 4, 1946, at Cen­tral Pres­by­te­rian Church, The Spec­ta­tor called it a “wed­ding of ex­cep­tional in­ter­est.”

The pa­per fea­tured pic­tures of the bride and groom and their par­ents and re­ported that “ad­mir­ing crowds lined the streets ad­ja­cent to the church to see the lovely bride and her gallant hus­band come smil­ingly out af­ter the cer­e­mony.”

Young had just re­turned from six years in the Sec­ond World War, serv­ing in Hamil­ton’s 40th Field Bat­tery, ris­ing to ma­jor and see­ing ac­tion in Italy.

In 1960, Young be­came pres­i­dent of the Hamil­ton Cot­ton Co. Ltd., which had mills in other parts of Canada. He was soon ex­press­ing frus­tra­tion about sub­si­dized tex­tile im­ports harm­ing the in­dus­try and cost­ing Cana­di­ans jobs.

The fam­ily busi­ness be­gan di­ver­si­fy­ing and Young worked with his broth­ers David and Alan to sell most of its tex­tile op­er­a­tions in March 1969 and con­vert the busi­ness into the pri­vate in­vest­ment firm Hamil­ton Group Ltd. in May 1970. Young stepped down as pres­i­dent in 1984.

The cot­ton fac­tory was on Mary Street, north of Bar­ton, and at its peak it em­ployed more than 500.

It was torn down and a gro­cery store stands there now. The Hamil­ton Group leased equip­ment to other com­pa­nies and con­ducted busi­ness around the world. The fam­ily sold its stake in the firm in 1993.

Terry Cooke, CEO of the char­i­ta­ble Hamil­ton Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion, called Young one of the finest men “that I have known.” Young be­came a di­rec­tor in 1961, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of his fa­ther, Maj.-Gen. James Ver­non Young.

“He was kind, gen­er­ous and in­fec­tiously pos­i­tive,” said Cooke.

“He was al­ways cu­ri­ous and pas­sion­ate about Hamil­ton and about the dif­fer­ence that each of us could make as com­mit­ted cit­i­zens. I feel so lucky to have known him.”

Young and wife Joyce do­nated $40 mil­lion to the foun­da­tion in 2000, a wind­fall Joyce made by loan­ing her nephew Bob some money in 1994 to help him launch his suc­cess­ful com­puter firm Red Hat Inc.

At the time, it was one of the largest char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions in Cana­dian his­tory and the foun­da­tion said it trans­formed their agency. By 2014 “The Young Fund” had seen grants to­talling more than $11 mil­lion.

Young also served as hon­orary colonel of the Argyll and Sutherland High­landers. Ron Fox­croft, cre­ator of the Fox 40 whis­tle, met Young while vol­un­teer­ing with the foun­da­tion and was re­cruited into the reg­i­ment by him.

In fact, he said it was Young who pro­posed he serve as hon­orary colonel in 2009 — he “men­tored me through­out the en­tire process.”

“He loved Hamil­ton, the Ar­gylls and the Tiger-Cats,” said Fox­croft. “We talked of­ten about those sub­jects ... Many of (the Youngs’) char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions were made qui­etly and anony­mously. It was truly an hon­our to know Bill.”

Young served on the boards of Stelco, Gulf Canada, Hard­ing Car­pets, Gore Mu­tual In­sur­ance, as well as McMaster Uni­ver­sity, Hill­field-Strathal­lan School and the Strat­ford Fes­ti­val.

He served in the 1960s as pres­i­dent of the Pri­mary Tex­tiles In­sti­tute, which rep­re­sented Canada’s 720 tex­tile mills. He was a grad­u­ate of Hill­field, the Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege and the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto.

Young leaves his wife, a daugh­ter, two sons, seven grand­chil­dren, two great-grand­chil­dren and a brother.

HAMIL­TON COM­MU­NITY FOUN­DA­TION

Joyce and Wil­liam Young in 2000 when Joyce made a then-un­prece­dented $40-mil­lion do­na­tion to the Hamil­ton Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion.

Wil­liam Young in 1962: Cot­ton Co. pres­i­dent.

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