Young at heart

Richard Young, artist, runner and owner of Young Signs in Gilroy, stands by a sculpture he made of sheet metal and angle iron called 'Primary Colors' that stands in his backyard.

Local runner, sculptor recently took first in his age group at
the Run for the Stinkin’ Roses event

There are some who believe that you’re given the face you deserve.

In Richard Young’s case, his name is a perfect fit.

At 74-years young, the lifelong Gilroyan, who has the look of a man 20 years his junior, has an enthusiasm for life that is channeled into everything he does, whether it’s owning and operating a sign shop started 77 years ago by his grandfather, spending his evenings painting and sculpting, or hitting the track each weekend to keep his body as strong as his mind.

While Young’s thoughts on life are ever evolving – “As we mature and get older, as they say, your perspective on life changes,” he says – his optimism and energy are a constant.

“My whole philosophy in life is the glass is always half-full,” he says, sitting in his shop, Young Signs, on a recent summer afternoon. “It’s never half-empty. People that know me say, ‘Yeah, he’s always smiling.’ And that’s just me.”

A renaissance man can find pleasure in the fact that his interests are unlimited. Goals equal the end of the road, but for Young, who became a member of the Gavilan College cross country team at age 51 shortly after his wife passed away and just recently cut back on running marathons, focusing solely on the horizon leaves the lesson behind. In July, Young finished 40th overall and won his 5K age group (70-99) with a time of 27 minutes, 57 seconds at the Second Annual Run for the Stinkin’ Roses in Gilroy.

“You can use the word ‘race’ or use the word ‘quest,’ you know, a quest in a race to be better or best, but you miss out on the joy of being,” he says. “To me, being is everything – my art, my spiritual being, my physical being, my intellectual being. If you don’t have that, what do you have in life? Then there’s no purpose in life.”

While his energy has been directed toward achieving a wide range of goals – Young put a show together at the Monterey Museum of Art and also qualified for the Boston Marathon in his 50s – his motivation is all too similar to that of many minorities who have struggled for success in South County. A second-generation Chinese American, Young is one example of how a group of hard-working people developed the town of Gilroy into the city of Gilroy.

“(It’s) the whole philosophy of being twice as good to be accepted, and trying twice as hard,” Young says.

That’s not to say such an outlook is always a good thing.

“I think it hinders your personality a little bit for a period of time, you kind of step back,” Young says. “I didn’t really begin to come out of it until high school. [Athletics] opened new doors for me.”

A fondness for sports stayed with Young from his time at Gilroy High – where he played football, baseball and ran track – all the way through his time at Hartnell College, San Jose State and then back to Gilroy, where he taught art at Gavilan. A founding father of the Gavilan Joggers and Striders running club, which will be hosting the 17th Annual Halloween 5K and 10K in October, Young’s continued work on the track is one component of maintaining balance and focus. Throw in the time he spends traveling, visiting his three daughters and using a brush or chisel, and a well-rounded individual, sure of what he wants to achieve, is formed.

“It’s just a way of life for me, I guess,” he says. “I think I set goals and when I set goals, I stick with it.”

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