Gary Young was known by many in Gilroy, greeting everyone with corny jokes to make them smile.
“Anywhere he went he made friends,” his daughter Stacey Silva said. “Even if he didn’t know you, he would say ‘good morning’ no matter what time of day it was.”
An employee at Lowe’s Home Improvement, Young was always willing to help anyone who walked through the doors, no matter how big or small the project.
He was also famous for shaking everyone’s hand that he met. Such a friendly and innocent gesture, though, may have contributed to the pain and loss his family suffers from today.
Young, 66, died on March 17 due to complications of Covid-19, the virus that has grinded the world to a halt and torn apart countless families.
Nearly three months later, his family has still been unable to hold a proper service for him due to the ongoing pandemic.
Santa Clara County’s shelter-in-place order limits funerals to only 10 attendees. That’s nowhere near adequate for the number of friends and family of Young’s. Worse still, Silva said she probably couldn’t attend due to her anxiety over the virus, as she rarely goes out of the house, only to go grocery shopping.
“I’m nowhere near ready to go sit in a restaurant and have dinner, or go to the movies when they open up,” she said. “I’m scared. I don’t think a lot of people are on the same page because they haven’t had someone die from coronavirus. They don’t know what it’s like to go through it.”
Silva said the plan is to eventually hold a celebration of life for her father, whenever large gatherings are once again allowed. Even then, Silva and her family are struggling financially, which would make it difficult to fund a gathering. Young contributed to the household, and Silva’s wife lost her job due to Covid-19.
Silva has set up an online fundraiser via GoFundMe at tinyurl.com/ya99v6uy to help pay for the celebration of life and bills.
Young, a longtime Santa Clara County resident, was born in Tennessee. He lived in Gilroy for about 16 years.
He was an expert cabinet maker, his daughter said, and got jobs mostly through word of mouth of his skill. Young was forced to retire from the profession after developing throat cancer in 2004, but he worked at Orchard Supply Hardware until it closed, later landing a job at Lowe’s.
At the beginning of 2020, he contracted an illness that had many of the symptoms of Covid-19: sore throat, cough and headache.
His headache worsened to the point where he went to the emergency room on March 3 at St. Louise Regional Hospital. But after scanning his head and determining there were no abnormalities, Young returned home, Silva said.
Two days later he was back in the hospital, where he tested positive for Covid-19 and was placed in isolation.
Just 10 months prior, Silva’s mother died from lung cancer. Then, the family was able to gather around her and hold her hand before she passed.
But with her father being in isolation and visitors prohibited, the family did not get a chance to say their final goodbyes. It’s a situation that brings Silva to tears whenever she thinks of it.
“It’s been a tough ride,” she said.
Despite living in the same household as Young, Silva, her wife, daughter and wife’s cousin did not contract Covid-19. Her father, she noted, had not traveled in years, leading the family to believe he contracted the virus locally.
Early in the pandemic, health officials had determined the first death related to Covid-19 in Santa Clara County was on March 9. However, they later discovered that two others had died due to the virus in early February, suggesting that Covid-19 had been circulating locally much earlier than originally thought.
Silva said she hopes that by sharing the story of her father, it will show that he is a human being, not just a statistic in the growing number of deaths due to Covid-19.
She also hopes that she can sway at least one person to stay at home and prevent the spread of the virus.
But with tensions high across the nation, such a task is becoming increasingly more difficult.
Silva said the protests surrounding George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minn. by a police officer is a serious issue, but “so is Covid.”
“It seems like Covid has gone to the backburner,” she said. “It’s still something that’s out there and still something to take very seriously.”
Her daughter, who was very close to her grandparents, is also going through a difficult time due to Covid-19. She graduated from Christopher High School on June 5, but like every other member of the Class of 2020, was forced to miss out on a live ceremony.
“She didn’t get to do any of the senior stuff,” Silva said. “She got a raw hand handed to her.”
For the past three months, Silva has been reaching out to others to warn them of the virus, urging them not to relax their guard.
“People complain about having to wear masks,” she said. “It makes me mad. Here we are trying to help one another, and we should all be on the same page.”
She’s also been hearing stories from countless friends, as well as her father’s former customers at Lowe’s who described how he helped them.
“He loved every minute of it,” Silva said.