By Nezzie Wade
Dorothy King Young ('DKY') was born on a ranch near Corvallis, Oregon, January 25, 1904. She died from pneumonia and stroke complications in Eureka on October 11, 1999. She was the sixth daughter in a family of ten. Dorothy and her many older siblings, particularly her older sisters who studied botany in college, spent incalculable hours studying wildflowers on or near the family ranch. Dorothy made wildflowers a lifelong hobby.
Dorothy attended Humboldt State University, then called Arcata Normal School. She graduated in 1923, and launched a teaching career that would have her researching in many rural areas of Humboldt County including Shively, Larabee and Miranda. She also had the opportunity to demonstrate her teaching methods throughout the state. A debilitating automobile accident in 1961 forced Dorothy to retire from the Eureka school sytem after many years of service. Over the years she was honored for her teaching effectiveness through scholarship awards and statewide recognition. After retiring from teaching, Dorothy continued to work as a special education consultant, and focused more of her attention on the habits and cultivation of native flowers.
The Youngs developed a slide show about wildflowers that they took all over the state from the Hall of Flowers in San Francisco to San Quentin. Dorothy continued to make wildflower slide presentations in elementary school classes until she was in her 90's! Dorothy also wrote a weekly colunm on plant topics for a local newspaper, "The Coast Observer." Dorothy named several horticultural strains and cultivars. In addition, quite a few have been named in honor of her. Most of these originated in Grandpa Charley's Park, but from there they have made it as far as Lithia Park in Ashland and on up to the Olympic Peninsula to a developing national collection of Lewisia.
Dorothy moved to Ashland, Ore., in 1979 to be closer to Charley who was in the veteran's home in White City. When Charley died in 1984, Dorothy then moved to Arcata to live near her daughter and son-in-law. She is perhaps best known by some as the author of the wildflower book Redwood Empire Wildflowers, first published by Naturegraph in 1964. This little field guide is excellent for photographic identification of the flowers and shrubs of the North Coast, and it is now in its fourth edition. The many photos capture the love of botany and enthusiasm for nature shared by Dorothy and her husband. This last edition is to honor the memory of Charles R. Young, "Grandpa Charley." The last statement by Dorothy in this edition is on the back jacket and demonstrates their lifelong commitment to the preservation and appreciation of native plants. "Together we have been dedicated to the task of opening the eyes of Americans to a precious heritage that is in danger of destruction. In his memory, we urge everyone to help bring these wonderful wildflowers under proper safeguards so all can continue to view and enjoy them."
The Youngs helped found the California Native Plant Society in 1965. The Gualala Chapter of CNPS was renamed the Dorothy King Young Chapter (DKY Chapter) in her honor and to memorialize her efforts expended to preserve and conserve the native plants of California, particularly in their geographic area. The board of the California Native Plant Society honored both Charles R. Young and Dorothy King Young in conferring upon them the title of Fellow. Charles was made the first fellow of CNPS in December 1973, while Dorothy was similarly honored in September 1988. Dorothy had been an advocate to preserve nature throughout her entire life. Her home was filled with correspondence and files on social, political, and conservation organizations involving preservation. Her door was always open to anyone who showed interest or in whom she might create some. She could "bend an ear" for a good long time, but she was also always willing to listen and share her knowledge of our native flora. One of Dorothy's greatest pleasures was looking at and sharing photographs and drawings of flowers.
When her eyesight diminished to complete blindness due to glaucoma, she thrilled at hearing stories or tales of wildflower field adventures. With each description of the plant beauties she would squeal a shrill, "oooooooo" or an "ahhhhhhhh."
Dorothy maintained continuous involvement with numerous plant related organizations and in the most recent decade was a founding member and generously supported the fledgling Humboldt Botanical Garden Foundation (HBGF), from whom she received the David Douglas award for "outstanding contributions in the area of botany and horticulture."
Initially, Dorothy called upon her many contacts and acquaintances, plant lovers and "flower people" all, to attend the first and founding meeting of the HBGF. With her effort this meeting initiated the campaign for a world class botanical garden in Humboldt County. Dorothy's endless commitment and energy given to the education, preservation, protection and the proliferation of native plants will be sorely missed. We can all be grateful for the decades of devotion she gave to this end, and we can continue to benefit from the inspiration and model she leaves us withi. By continuing to support the California Native Plant Society we honor the intentions of the founders, including Dorothy. Be thankful for their vision -- her vision -- and the quality of their commitment.
Reprinted from the Winter 2000 issue of Darlingtonia, newletter of the Northcoast Chapter of CNPS. Used by permission.