For the last two years of his life, Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young was in constant, searing pain, but put off thoughts of retirement because there was too much to do, Bev Young, his wife of 26 years, said in an interview Sunday night.
“It was horrible,” said Bev Young, “He just sucked it up. He refused to take drugs other than anti-inflammatories, because he didn’t want to affect his thinking. He said he had things to do.”
Bill Young, 82, who served 43 years in Congress, “was concerned with the direction the country was going in,” said Bev Young two days after her husband died surrounded by family and friends at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. “He was concerned with the administration’s leadership or lack of leadership. At one point he wanted to retire, but he was very scared for the troops, because he was afraid if he left, whoever took his place wouldn’t see to it they had the equipment and armor they needed to go into some of the wars they were sent into.”
During Young’s time in Congress, where he served most recently as the powerful head of the House defense appropriations committee, the couple became know as stalwart supporters of those who serve, particularly the wounded.
For Bev Young, 57, it all started in 2000, when she accompanied her husband to Kuwait during Easter while he went “to do something secret.”
They learned a young Marine was shot by friendly fire and that he had no family.
Bev Young went to go see him and it “changed my life.”
“I was just a mother and wife until this incident,” she said.
Seeing what the young Marine was going through as he fought for his life was eye opening, said Bev Young, and from that point forward, she and Bill Young dedicated their lives to advocating for the wounded.” They also took in Josh Callihan and treated him as their own son.
Though Bill Young’s “love for the troops is my proudest pride,” Bev Young said she is also proud of his work to create the National Bone Marrow Registry, which was spurred because Bill Jr., one of the couple’s four children, was in the hospital with a little girl who was dying of leukemia.
Young’s most recent visit to the hospital began as a way to relieve his chronic pain, which began when he survived a small plane accident in 1970 and was exacerbated about two years ago during a visit to Bethesda when a young attendant there accidently dropped him.
During his most recent stay, Young was eating breakfast and started to choke, said Bev Young.
“I asked ‘what’s wrong?’” she said. “His face got real red and he started to spit up the eggs.”
Bev Young said her husband motioned for a Kleenex and after he put it over his mouth, “it was covered with bright red blood.”
Bev Young said she balled the tissue up, not wanting to alarm him.
The doctors, concerned that he might have a clot in his lung, asked him if he wanted to undergo a risky procedure that could leave him paralyzed or even kill him.
“He told them he would rather spend whatever time he had left with his grandchildren and family, rather than take the risk of dying on the table,” she said.
Bev Young said she spent her husband’s last days by his bedside, never leaving the hospital.
On Thursday, they were watching television when Young’s face flashed on the screen.
“They said ‘Bill is dead,’” Bev Young said. Long time family lawyer David Jolly, “jumped up and turned the tv off. My jaw dropped over it. The doctor said the reason Bill stayed alive longer was to prove to the press that they can’t tell him when he was going to die.”
The next day, at 6:50 p.m. his time ran out.
“This is tough,” said Bev Young from the Indian Rocks Beach home she shared with her husband. “I haven’t even been able to go upstairs into our bedroom yet.”