80 years later, YMCA still big for this Butler County sports icon

Jack Young, 89, has been a member of the Hamilton Central YMCA for 80 years. He has been a faithful visitor to the YMCA and has served in many different roles at the facility. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Jack Young, 89, has been a member of the Hamilton Central YMCA for 80 years. He has been a faithful visitor to the YMCA and has served in many different roles at the facility. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Jack Young was on a tight schedule.

He had 30 minutes to talk about his lifelong affiliation with the Hamilton Central YMCA and his lengthy teaching/coaching career. He was available from 8:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. Thursday.

But the more Young discussed his 80-year YMCA membership and how that relationship opened career paths and formed friendships, it was evident this interview was going to take more than half an hour even though Tanya Lowry, executive director of the Hamilton Central YMCA, warned him about his next appointment.

It seemed Young’s every sentence began with, “Anyway…,” and ended with, “….one more.”

Young, 89, rattled off dates and names from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s like they happened yesterday.

He was introduced to the Hamilton YMCA on Oct. 1, 1939 as a 9-year-old boy. He would have joined earlier, but he had to wait until he was at least 9 years old due to the depth of the YMCA swimming pool.

He has been a member ever since, serving in many capabilities throughout those last eight decades and now wearing the crown as “the top man” in the Men’s Health Center, Lowry said. He works out six days a week, and on Thursday, he met one of his buddies and they walked downtown, then took a sauna.

Earlier this month, the YMCA celebrated Young’s 80-year anniversary and Lowry said the YMCA community around the United States was impressed by his “extraordinary” longevity. The YMCA was founded in 1850 so Young may be one of the longest continuous members in its history.

“Jack is a fixture in this facility,” Lowry said. “He has a consistent presence in the Men’s Health Center. Everyone knows Jack. Everyone loves and appreciates Jack for his presence, his loyalty, his connections, his historical value.”

The youngest of six children, Young said he enjoyed the YMCA youth programs. As a student at Hamilton High School, where he graduated in 1948, he helped organize dances that featured a 10-cent jukebox. The dances were held at the Hamilton YWCA after home Big Blue football and basketball games.

All of those connections eventually keyed Young’s summer employment and adult livelihood. He worked at Potters Park Golf Course for 90 cents an hour and led gym and swim classes at the YMCA for 50 cents an hour.

Young graduated from Miami University in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in education. He rode from Hamilton to Oxford with another Butler County legend, Carel Cosby. He and Cosby also refereed Champion Mill basketball leagues at the YMCA. They were paid $3 a game and refereed four games a night.

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“That was good money back in those days,” he said.

He later earned his master’s degree in school administration from Xavier University.

He coached basketball at Garfield High School from 1959-66 and Taft from 1970-72. His Garfield teams won three Greater Ohio League championships and he twice was named the league’s coach of the year. He was successful, he said, because he had the “horses.”

He later coached at New Miami, where he was named Butler County Coach of the Year.

Young also coached baseball and basketball at Belmont University in Nashville and has been instrumental in recruiting more than 100 Hamilton High students to the university.

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For 32 years, Young coached basketball at the high school and college level. He’s a member of four halls of fame: Ohio High School Basketball Coaches, Belmont University, Hamilton High Athletic and Butler County Athletic.

Without the YMCA foundation, Young doesn’t know how his life story would have been written.

“I learned a lot of things here at the Y,” he said. “The Y has been good to me.”

Young, a longtime member of First Baptist Church in Hamilton, served as Minister of Activities, and he took youth on numerous trips. He was also Minister of Senior Adults, for which he visited those who were sick. He has performed 219 funerals since 1990.

“I don’t pretend to be a preacher,” he said.

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Then it was time to leave. He was told he had 15 minutes to drive to Hamilton High for his next meeting.

The more time Lowry spends around Young, the more she’s impressed.

“He’s still agile, still sharp,” she said. “He will tell you stories as long as you will sit and listen. He still has purpose and reason to come in.”

That was true in 1939. That is true today.

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