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Colleagues, opponents remember Rep. Don Young

Published: Mar. 20, 2022 at 4:34 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - State Sen. Josh Revak spent six years as an aide to the late Rep. Don Young. Working for Young in the Capitol, Revak found someone who became more than just a boss.

“He treated me like family from the day that I started in his office and I’d be in a very different place now in life if it weren’t for him,” Revak said.

Rep. Young died suddenly Friday at the age of 88 while he flew home to Alaska.

Young served 49 years in the U.S. of Representatives, and earned the title Dean of the House due to his longevity.

Many people, including Revak, found the longtime Congressman had a larger than life persona as someone who loved to share his experiences.

“He loved to laugh. He would tell stories, amazing stories about debating Henry Kissinger on Air Force One with Richard Nixon in the 70s,” Revak said. “Then he would laugh, he would belly laugh at his own jokes and it was just contagious.”

Don Young sought his 26th term in Congress at the time of his death. Campaigning can often be the most challenging part of serving in politics, but not to Don Young. He relished it, say many of those who knew him best, including one of his challengers in this year’s election.

“He gained energy around meeting people, engaging with Alaskans,” said Republican candidate for U.S. House Nick Begich. “He loved listening, he loved hearing their stories, and Don never stopped. He never stopped listening and he never stopped working for the people of Alaska.”

Young may have come across as a bit gruff at times. But that style made him admirable to some, including his Democratic challenger.

“He was cantankerous and he spoke his mind. You never doubted where Don Young was on a question because he didn’t care,” Anchorage Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant said. “He just said what he thought and that is an honorable quality that’s rarely seen these days.”

Despite the different views on his legacy, Don Young fought tirelessly for his state.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has ordered state flags to be lowered to half staff to honor Rep. Young. Flags have been lowered at the White House, and the U.S. Capitol as a tribute.

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