Willa Lurleen Young, a longtime resident of Pleasanton, died Jan. 19, after an extended battle with congestive heart failure. She had been married 72 years to the love of her life, Raymond, who died in October 2019.
A memorial service celebrating their lives will be held at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, March 7, at GraceWay Church, 1183 Quarry Lane, Pleasanton.
Willa was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1928, the youngest of three children. At a time when many women didn’t even attend college, Willa graduated in 1951 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s in education from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. She also met Ray Young at OSU, and they were married on May 29, 1947.
Willa and Ray were always a team act. When Ray got a job as director and veterinarian at the Oakland Zoo, Willa transferred her teaching credentials to California and went to work teaching deaf students in Oakland’s middle and high schools. When Ray left the zoo and opened two veterinary hospitals in Pleasanton, Willa handled the bookkeeping. When they began to acquire rental homes, she got her real estate license in 1987 to handle the day-to-day property management. When they began investing in the stock market, Willa joined a local women’s investment group to identify promising stocks to buy.
Willa was a woman born before her time in many ways. Raised during the Depression, she was used to growing her own fruit vegetables and fruit, making her own compost, so nothing went to waste. While teaching in Oakland in the 60s, she discovered The Food Mill, a communally-run organic bakery and bulk food store. She delighted in the freshly baked whole wheat bread, apricot bars and bulk grain and bran products, all organic at a time when the organic message was considered frivolous. She loved the bean and alfalfa sprouts, but decided they were not fresh enough, so she made her own from organic seeds in a Mason jar sealed with cheese cloth. For years after moving to Pleasanton in the early 70s, she would return to Oakland weekly to buy fresh organic bread, cookies, bulk grains and maple syrup candy. She planted several varieties of plum, peach, apple and citrus trees at their home in Pleasanton, so there would always be fresh fruit.
Willa was an avid thrifter and reader. A perfect day for her started with a cup of coffee, visiting a few select local thrift shops, having lunch with a friend, going to the library to return books and check out some new ones, and then home in time for dinner with Ray. Their favorite restaurant was In-N-Out Burgers, where they met friends for dinner most Friday nights during the last several years of their lives.
Willa was a devoted wife and mother. Her greatest loves were her family and her dog Spoodles. She leaves behind her daughter, Patricia Young Toombs (Larry Toombs), of Gilroy, California, and grand-daughter, Erin Melissa Toombs, of Atlanta, Georgia.
The family prefers contributions in her memory be made to GraceWay Church, 1183 Quarry Lane, Pleasanton.