By Courtney Dentch
Young, a former Springfield Gardens resident and the founder of several veterans support organizations, died Jan. 12, and about 50 family members and veterans gathered to remember her at a funeral in Jamaica Monday.
Young served in the Women's Army Corps during the Vietnam War at posts in the United States, France and Germany. After returning from service in 1964, she earned degrees from York College in Jamaica and Adelphi University.
Young founded the New York State Coalition for Fairness to Veterans, a non-profit aimed at helping vets cope with housing and social services problems in 1984, and in 1993 she founded the non-profit Military Women of New York City and Friends to help female veterans.
In August 2000, Young and her Coalition for Fairness opened the first supportive housing project for senior veterans in Jamaica.
“She was a woman dedicated to fighting to preserve the rights of veterans,” Young's brother, Al Chapman, said. “Her accomplishments are too many to list or discuss here today.”
Young served on veterans advisory boards under Gov. George Pataki, former Gov. Hugh Carey, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), former state Sen. Alton Waldon, Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and former City Councilman Thomas Ognibene.
“She was an activist in the community, and even though there are a large number of veterans, it's also a small community,” said Clarice Joynes, director of the Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs. “If you were in the veteran's community you knew Ruth Young.”
Young had been honored for her work with awards from former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and other elected officials from all levels of government.
“She made me understand how important it is to take care of other people,” said Lester Muse, veteran liaison for Smith. “She was doing God's work, not Ruth's work.”
While she will be most remembered for her tireless work, many at the funeral service recalled her communication skills. Young was famous among family, friends and veterans for her long telephone conversations.
“I would hate for her to call me because I'd never get off the phone,” Chapman said. “She'd talk and talk and talk and talk. She was a strong, strong communicator.”
She also sent out lengthy e-mails addressed to a large audience and thick packets of information crammed into manila envelopes, said cousin Henry Chapman.
“It was so thick I could have used it as a paperweight,” he said of the package. “I would treat it like the Sunday Times and set aside time to sit down and read what Ruthie sent.”
But it was all part of taking care of people, Henry Chapman said.
“Ruthie was a shepherd,” he said. “She was looking out for everybody. Her definition of family was a little broader than yours or mine. I think it may have stretched across the entire country.”
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.