Veteran William B. Young

William B. Young

William “Bill” Young was born in May 1922 at Halifax in Southside Virginia to John and Effie Young. His father owned and operated a country store so as a youngster he learned to help in the store. His family provided room and board to teachers who served local schools. Bill was fond of school and entered the first grade at the age of five. The church also was an important factor in his early life and he attended both the Presbyterian Church where he was a member and the nearby Methodist church. At an early age he made a commitment to become a Christian. Bill is appreciative of his Christian home where he was nurtured by his parents. His paternal grandfather was a country doctor and was a Captain during the Civil War. His grandmother was an important person in his life. He fondly remembers her extended visits to his home as well as his Sunday visits to her home where he played with other “Young” children.

Bill felt called to the ministry while a teenager. After high school he attended Presbyterian Junior College in Maxton, North Carolina from 1939 through 1941. He then enrolled at King College in Bristol, Tennessee where he graduated in 1944. After completing his ministerial studies at Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia he was ordained by East Hanover Presbytery in 1947. Following ordination he served churches in Virginia at Richmond, Radford, and Altavista. Bill married Betty Lee Spillman from Farmville, Virginia in April of 1948.

While serving as a pastor he became interested in the military and attended Army Reserve meetings. His experiences led him to feel called to become a chaplain and he felt led to the U. S. Army Air Corp. He enlisted in the Army Air Corp in 1955 and completed his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas and then became a chaplain with the rank of 1st Lieutenant at Tyndal Air Force Base in Florida. During the early years of his service, the Army Air Corp became the U. S. Air Force.

Thus, Bill entered upon what would be a 20 year career as a chaplain in the U. S. Air Force. After just one year of experience he was sent to Japan for his next assignment. He recalls that his duties required that he engage in extensive travel as a “military circuit rider” and much of this travel was by train. Many Japanese at that time were attempting to learn English and he was often engaged in conversation by young Japanese who were seeking to perfect their skills in English.

He saw extensive duty in the United States and was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D. C., at Montgomery Air Force Base in Alabama, and at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. During these years he was promoted first to Captain and then to Major. The Air Force maintained Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish chaplains. Bill served as a Protestant chaplain, but sometimes on smaller bases he occasionally was called upon to serve Catholic personnel. He also served as a hospital chaplain for various periods of time. While at Andrews Air Force Base, Bill and Betty Lee sometimes attended conferences and other events at Massanetta Springs. They enjoyed the services in Hudson Auditorium and the vesper services on the hill behind the Center.

Bill was assigned to an air base in Thailand during the Vietnam War. He felt that year, though far from home and family, was one of the most satisfying and fruitful years of his service. The three years spent at Lakenheath Air Force Base in England were probably the most enjoyable years of his service for both Bill and his family. They traveled throughout the United Kingdom and visited Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Germany, and Austria.

Bill was discharged from the Air Force in 1975 with a commendation for his 20 years of military service. Upon returning to civilian life, he again was the pastor of churches in the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Most of these churches were located in Southside Virginia. For seven years he also served as the Chaplain at Piedmont Geriatric Hospital in Burkesville, Virginia. In 1987 he was honorably retired by the Presbytery of the Peaks.

After retirement, Bill and Betty Lee anticipated spending more time with their three children. As retirement plans progressed they remembered the enjoyable times that they had experienced at Massanetta Springs Conference Center. Also, while still an active minister, Bill became aware of the Sunnyside Retirement Community which had been established adjacent to the Conference Center. They were successful in securing a cottage in the Community and they enjoy the life that it continues to provide for them. From his years of military and civilian experience Bill learned to be patient and take the long view. He stated that “If you can be faithful, God will be faithful to guide you through.”

As told to Bill Blair