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Public memorial service for Rep. Don Young held in Anchorage

Alaskans say a final farewell to Representative Don Young.
Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 6:36 PM AKDT|Updated: Apr. 2, 2022 at 2:54 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A memorial service for the late Rep. Don Young was held in Anchorage on Saturday.

The memorial service was at Anchorage Baptist Temple on Northern Lights Boulevard and was open to the public. In attendance were many of Alaska’s highest ranking politicians including former Gov. Sarah Palin, Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson as well as Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan.

Young’s family requested that instead of flowers, donations be directed to the Don Young Institute for Alaska and the Lu Young Children’s Fund for Alaska Native Children.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the first to speak at the service, sharing her fond memories of Congressman Don Young, who she has known since she was a child.

“Don was one who could not only count the years in his life, but he could count the life in his years. He lived a great life, it was full. He lived those 88 years to the fullest,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski noted that Young was only the 43rd American citizen to have been given the privilege to lie in state at the Capitol, calling it the highest tribute a member of Congress can have.

“I learned very early on you never ever underestimate Don Young, for Don never forgot where he came from,” Murkowski said. “Don Young was a man of the people and he built relationships that endured because they were honest, they were true, and he was loyal.”

Jerry Prevo speaks at Anchorage Baptist Temple during the late Rep. Don Young's memorial service.
Jerry Prevo speaks at Anchorage Baptist Temple during the late Rep. Don Young's memorial service.(Mike Nederbrock)

Sen. Dan Sullivan beamed with pride about how Rep. Young pushed an amendment through Congress during his first term that helped begin the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

“Probably more than any member of the House, Don Young knew how to get things done,” Sullivan said. “In D.C. there are talkers and doers, show horses and work horses. From day one, Don was doer, a work horse, and man did that matter to all of us here in Alaska.”

Sullivan recalled jokes Rep. Young would make at the expense of other members of the Senate, and detailed how Alaska delegation meetings would always be held in Rep. Young’s office.

“Don Young was authentic, so authentic in an age of blow dried, overcoat politicians he was a throwback,” Sullivan said. “A throwback to a time and a place where people were respected — not so much for how they talked or how they looked — but for what they could do and boy, did he do a lot in life and for Alaska.”

At one point Sullivan’s speech drew applause from the crowd.

“In the immortal words of St. Paul, Don has fought the good fight. He has finished the race. He has kept the faith. Rest in peace Don Young. Our friend, our one of a kind Congressman and our faithful servant,” Sullivan said as he finished his remarks.

Young’s daughter, Dawn, told the story of being an 11-year-old child who picked a fight with her mother and yelled at her that she wanted her daddy. She says Young flew home from Alaska to Virginia that same night.

“I really didn’t share my father, my father was big enough to cover all of us. He was big enough and he was enough,” Dawn Young said through tears.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said that on the way into the memorial service, he replayed old voicemails that Rep. Young left him. Dunleavy spoke of the phone calls he and Rep. Young shared over the last few years.

“Don Young was not just a congressman, he was a human being first and foremost,” Dunleavy said.

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson spoke about some of his final conversations with Rep. Young, and expressed his desire to rename the Port of Alaska after Young.

“Today’s turnout is a testament to the incredible life Don lived, and the impact he had on Alaska,” Bronson said.

Bronson said that he and Rep. Young discussed the name change in Bronson’s office.

Alaska Sen. Josh Revak and former Sen. John Coghill — both of whom joined Palin on Friday in filing for the special primary election to finish Young’s term — all attended the memorial service.

Palin, like many others who spoke, said in an interview that Young had called her when she was in office to offer advice, encouragement and jokes. Asked what the tipping point was for her about entering the race to replace Young in congress, Palin said it was Young who inspired her to file.

“Really Don Young’s passion for the state, knowing that that has to be continued or Alaska, unfortunately, could be left untapped,” Palin said. “He wanted our national resources tapped responsibly so that we could feed the rest of the nation and just knowing that, in honor of him, that needs to continue.”

Coghill spoke in the lobby of the church about how his own father had run Young’s campaign.

“I’ve known him from my youth. My dad was actually his first campaign manager, way back, right. So when the Begich plane went down, my dad was the Republican chairman at the point, and he took Don Young aside and said ‘ok this is where we start,’” Coghill said. “So they went off campaigning and became really good friends.”

Members of Young’s immediate and extended family were honored during the memorial. The current and former staff members who worked for Young were honored as well.

“Don never forgot where he came from and the people he represented, that was us. He was Alaska through and through,” Bronson said.

Anchorage Baptist Temple Pastor Emeritus and Liberty University President Jerry Prevo read comments from Young’s wife Anne.

“Our strength and comfort today is being together. My sweetheart was all about togetherness and teamwork,” Prevo read. “...He would want us to continue his work in our own lives.”

Young’s daughters and family members shared their emotional memories of their father, who suddenly died on March 18.

“To the voters in Alaska who kept my husband in office all these many years doing what he loved,” Prevo read. “There was more do to and we were not finished yet.”

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