Dick Young

“The human intellect and spirit still seek communion with a Natural Order as revealed throughout recorded history, and certainly as important as saving native plants is perpetuating these irreplaceable sanctuaries. If one treads softly here, she or he can meld into the ageless unfolding natural drama and find a measure of wisdom and contentment that transcends our feverish accomplishments.” ~Dick Young

He was an exceedingly rare mix of scientific and architectural exactness, immense creativity, unrelenting passion and boundless energy, and a seemingly unending capacity and thirst for knowledge. I would equate Dick Young to a John Muir of the Fox Valley. A decorated World War II Veteran, a survivor of Iwo Jima (where he was shot…twice), Dick was best known locally for his environmental knowledge and activism. A lifelong Oswego resident, he worked as the Kendall County Building & Zoning inspector as early as the 1950’s, and was a co-founder and director of the Kendall County Forest Preserve District. Dick’s concern and work on behalf of the environment crossed county lines into Kane County, where he worked as the County’s chief environmentalist until 1987. He made himself available as a consultant throughout the region until his retirement in 2008. Dick authored the book “Kane County Wild Plants & Natural Areas”, a must-have in the ecological restoration field, in which he encourages the protection of native plant communities where they are found in the wild, and the use of native species in environments shaped by man. He is the only man in Illinois history to have two forest preserves named after him, Kane County’s Richard Young Forest Preserve and the Dick Young Forest Preserve in Kendall County. Dick, who passed away in 2011, was a steadfast supporter of The Conservation Foundation and we relied on his wisdom and knowledge heavily.

A complete list of all of Dick Young’s accomplishments and endearing and inspirational qualities would fill volumes. Most everyone who had the privilege of spending time with him knew they were in the presence of greatness. A visit to his remarkable home on the Fox River, which he built himself, was a surreal afternoon I will never forget. We scampered around on the home’s green roof and gave it a Conservation@Home certification, he dug up a young redbud tree from his property for me, showed me through the house with creative, totally unique features around every corner. I especially enjoyed hearing that he designed the shape of his living room around his wife’s grand piano. He even sat down and played that piano for me. I did not know him the longest or the best, but I will forever be grateful that I knew him at all.

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