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Laguna Beach builder, civic leader David Young dead at 96

One of Laguna Beach’s most prominent citizens, David Young, has died of natural causes. He had celebrated his 96th birthday this spring on May 3rd. In addition to his stature in Laguna’s business community, Young was also an outspoken advocate for the local arts scene, and Laguna’s Festival of Arts, in particular.

Until his retirement, he was the driving force behind the family’s construction business, Young Building Corp., which was responsible for the construction of such well-known Laguna landmarks as the Wells Fargo and Bank of America buildings. Among his many honors, David Young was a recipient of the designation as Builder of the Year from the National Association of Home Builders. Upon his retirement, he turned over operation of the company to his son Robin Young and grandson Michael Young, who represents the fourth and fifth generations of Youngs to have worked in the family business, begun by Young’s grandfather in 1884.

     David Young was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1913. After receiving a degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas, Austin, Young joined his father’s construction business. During World War II, he worked for Douglas Aircraft. In 1945, David and his wife Mary paid their first visit to Laguna Beach and immediately knew it was the place where they wanted to live and raise their family. All four of the Youngs’ children graduated from Laguna Beach High School: Nelly Bly, Suzy, Robin and Peter who died in an accident while attending California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. In honor of Peter, the Young family endowed a scholarship program at Cal Poly which still provides financial assistance to students.

While continuing to expand his local construction business, Young became involved in local politics, beginning with an invitation to serve on the school board. Noted for his polite demeanor and Southern charm, Young was also fiercely loyal to organizations he supported and outspoken about them. He never stopped looking for ways to give back to the community. In 1957, Young was instrumental in creating the Festival of Arts Laguna Beach High School Scholarship program which is still going strong. In 1962, he helped found the Laguna Beach School of Art, now the Laguna College of Art and Design, to give artists a center for professional training. And in 1989, Young helped form the Festival of Arts Foundation which assures the future of the scholarship program and helps underwrite the efforts of other area arts organizations.


     Beloved and admired by his associates at the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, for which his support never wavered, Young was not afraid of controversy. He played an active role in the successful efforts in 2000 to assure that the Festival and Pageant would never leave Laguna.

     In 2001, Young was honored as Laguna’s Citizen of the Year in the local Patriots’ Day Parade, a fitting tribute to one of this seaside community’s most enthusiastic supporters. In 2004, David received two prestigious awards, the Orange County Arts Cultural Legacy Award for Community Visionary presented by Arts Orange County and a Spirit of Volunteerism Award from the Volunteer Center of Orange County.

He is survived by his three children (Robin Young of Laguna Beach, Nelly Bly Cogan of Oxford, Ohio, and Suzy Papanikolas of Hilo, Hawaii), eight grandchildren, and fifteen great grandchildren.

A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at Tivoli Terrace on the Festival of Arts grounds at 10 a.m. Monday, July 27.