Family and friends of Wallace (Wally) Young gathered at St. Charles Catholic Church in Hailey on Tuesday to celebrate the life of a man dedicated to his community.
"It was a hard loss," said Wally's wife, Lavona "But we are in so much appreciation for all of the friends and neighbors in the Wood River Valley who came to the service. It was wonderful."
The ceremony marked the passing of a decorated war veteran, lifelong horseman, devoted father and husband, and two-time Hailey Chamber of Commerce president.
Wally Young grew up on the Young family homestead near Champion Creek in the Sawtooth Valley before attending Hailey High School. During World War II, he attained the rank of sergeant, earning many honors, including a Silver Star and Purple Heart.
For 30 years he owned and operated The Mint bar on Main Street in Hailey before selling it to Hollywood actor Bruce Willis in 1990. His family said he loved to spend time with friends at the landmark bar, playing pool and horseshoes.
Along with Ted Uhrig and others, Young helped to found the Sawtooth Rangers Riding Club and establish the annual Days of the Old West Rodeo in Hailey. He also helped form Blaine County Search and Rescue, Wood River Rural Fire and Rescue and served as fire commissioner for 30 years.
Wood River Rural began in 1974, when Young and a few others organized an election to raise tax money for fire-fighting equipment to protect properties outside of the city limits in surrounding Blaine County.
The fire district they created now includes three fire stations, a team of professional firefighters and numerous emergency medical technicians. Today, crews respond to fires in a 150-square-mile area and provide emergency services to an area some 12 times larger.
"His community was his life," said his daughter, Tammi Laragan.
When Tammi's husband, Joe Laragan, asked for her hand in marriage, Wally took him for an arduous trail ride in mountainous terrain. When they were above a 200-foot cliff, Joe got nervous, he said.
"Wally looked back and said, 'Joe, That horse doesn't want to fall any more than you do,'" Laragan said.
Young lived by the motto, "Your word is your bond," Laragan said.
"When you're up in the mountains looking for elk this year, remember Wally's footprints have probably preceded you there," Laragan said. "Wally knew this valley, every mountain and every draw. He loved this earth and respected every living creature,"
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org