Though her first name was officially Elizabeth, she was Kay to everyone she knew. This was, as she would explain, a trend at the time she was born -- for parents to call kids by their middle name. She could, and did, cite examples. Kay died peacefully, surrounded by family, on Tuesday, November 12, 2019 at Mercy Hospice in Iowa City, IA.
She was born on January 23, 1936 in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and lived there her entire life, save for her college years. In fact, generations of Kay’s family going back before the Civil War lived in Mt. Pleasant. When asked about her lineage, she just said, “I don’t know. We’re from Mt. Pleasant.”
Kay was the daughter of Sam R. and Mary Virginia (Crane) Ewart. She was a 1954 graduate of Mt. Pleasant High School. On September 2, 1956, she married Robert B. Young, Jr. They had known each other since kindergarten and were married for 54 years, until Bob’s death in 2010. They were exceptional partners and parents.
She received her Theater degree from Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) in 1958. Following college, Kay briefly taught English at Mt. Pleasant High School until she and Bob started their family. In 1969, Kay, along with a dedicated group, founded the Mt. Pleasant Community Theatre. She directed their inaugural production, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and had many directing and acting credits over the years. Favorite acting credits included the title role in Mame and Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!
Professionally, Kay found success as an agent with Farm Bureau Insurance from 1985 to 1996. Prior to that, she spent time as a key staff member at the Iris Restaurant. In her retirement, she taught English as a Second Language.
Kay was a fierce champion of people in general, and particularly of those who seemed to have the deck stacked against them but refused to give up. Case in point: Reuben Martor. Kay met Reuben, a refugee of the Liberian civil war, in an internet chat room in 2005. She was undeterred by warnings about unsolicited internet contacts, and befriended the young man. In time, she became his second mom. Kay was instrumental in his journey to emigrate to the United States. Now he is a husband, father of three, registered nurse, and a US citizen. More recently, Kay drew national media attention for taking in a local teenager, Walfred, left parentless by the immigration raid in May of 2018. She didn’t do it for the media attention. But she didn’t mind it either.
Some people collect stamps or Hummel figurines; Kay collected people. Her countless friends sustained her through all phases of her life. She loved her three kids (Steve, Phil and Sara) and their spouses (Melanie, Cindy and John) with all her heart. She was crazy about her four grandchildren (David, Abby, Mariah and Aaron), and trumpeted their accomplishments to anyone in her path. In recent years, she was delighted by her four great-grandchildren (Abby’s children Bowen, Braxton, Bentley and Baylor). She loved the aforementioned Reuben and Walfred like they were her own. Her collection was complete with the discovery of her dear niece, Susan, two years ago.
Other things to know: Kay was an ardent Democrat and took seriously her responsibility as an Iowan to kick off the process of choosing a president. She had a loud laugh, sometimes just referred to as “Kay’s laugh.” She was a better than average bridge player; she was an early adopter of Netflix, Roku, Alexa and the internet itself. She was an avid quilter-- she liked making them but what she really loved was giving them away to special people. She was a news junkie and especially loved Fareed Zakariah and CSPAN. And, oddly, Judge Judy. She kissed Joe Biden twice, and found his affections completely appropriate. At the time of her death, she was one of the longest-standing members of the First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant.
A Memorial Service with Reverend Trey Hegar officiating will be held on Saturday, November 16 at 1:00 pm at First Presbyterian Church. Family will greet friends following the service. Burial will precede the service, at 11:30 a.m. at Forest Home Cemetery. Gifts of love and friendship may be directed to First Presbyterian Church or Iowa WINS (Welcomes Iowa Neighbors). Kay’s family would like to thank the team at Mercy Hospital and everyone who helped take care of her and make her happy and comfortable in her last eight months.
Olson~Powell Memorial Chapel is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be directed to www.olsonpowell.com.
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