Life was a song for leader of the band

November 18, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Herbert Alfred "Herb" Young, who died Nov. 7 at the age of 79. His obituary was published in the Nov. 9 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Sarajane Taylor's 58-year "run" with Herbert A. Young began and ended on a musical note.

"I went to watch a parade and band competition, and I just happened to sit down next to Herb," Sarajane said. It was 1949 at the high school stadium in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Armed with a camera to record the competition, Sarajane said she asked Herb for help with the right settings. When it was time to leave, he asked if he could walk her home.

Just 16 then, Sarajane said she was impressed with Herb, who was 21 and a junior in college. After a stop at Patterson's Drug Store, the couple went to Sarajane's house, where Herb sat down and began playing the piano.


After dinner with her family, the couple went to the Apollo Theatre to see a movie.

"He touched my hand and I felt it all over," Sarajane said.

On the day Herb passed away, Sarajane and their seven children gathered at his bedside.

"We all sang to him that night," said his son, John Young. "Daddy hung on until we all got there."

Herb and Sarajane married in 1951, beginning 56 years of family life and a musical career in two states.

John said he likes to tell people that his father's trombone saved his life.

"My father's battalion was due to be shipped out to Korea when he asked to audition for the Army band," he said.

He got the band assignment. As it turned out, most of his fellow soldiers who went to Korea were killed in action, John said.

Herb had been the music teacher at the high school in Shepherdstown, W.Va., for just two weeks when he was drafted. After a four-year tour, he immediately picked up where he left off.

There were stints at Martinsburg South Middle and High schools, then at Hancock Elementary and Middle-Senior High from 1965 to 1990. In addition, Herb directed choirs at several churches through the years.

In his "spare" time, he taught private students and even groomed dogs, all to fulfill his duties as provider to his large family.

"Herb was the heart of our community for so many years," Hancock Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said. "For many years, he actually represented the arts in Hancock."

Youngest daughter Janie Young said that concept was brought home to her at her father's viewing when she met a former student who later became a music teacher ... all because of Herb.

Son David Young recalls performing with his father, Dan Murphy and others in the Tristate Big Band.

"I played drums," he said.

One of that band's favorite songs was Dan Fogelberg's "The Leader of the Band."

Daughter Mary Vivian Hornbaker pointed out that her father was not only a great dad, teacher and mentor to his children, but also to his grandchildren.

"Dad played a major role in the life of my daughter, Emily Hornbaker, and inspired her to follow in his footsteps," Mary Vivian said. "She plans to be a band director just like him."

Sharilyn Bovey, a student of Herb's for six years in Martinsburg, said being a member of his band was more like being in a large, extended family.

"I wouldn't have gone into music except for him," Sharilyn said. "Now I teach music because I wanted to be just like him."

That sentiment was echoed by John Cushwa, who began studying music with Herb when he was in the ninth grade.

"Because of Mr. Young, I had a 61/2-year career as a music educator," John said. And although he now is a Presbyterian minister in Falling Waters, W.Va., John said he and Herb stayed close.

"He and Sarajane attended my ordination in May 2006," John said.

Daughter Sara Jean Wagner said she always loved watching her father march beside the band with his back so straight.

"He was very proud of his students," she said.

Susie True said her father was the only band director in Hancock for many years, so it wasn't unusual for a music student to spend nine years with Herb - from fourth grade to graduation.

"This gave the students a real attachment to what some refer to as a father figure," Susie said.

But Herb's all-encompassing love of music and all things musical could be somewhat of a burden from time to time, Janie said.

"I remember playing something on the piano and I'd hit a wrong note," she said. "From wherever he was in the house, I could hear him bellowing 'B-flat,' so I knew what note it was supposed to be."

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