Meet Your Neighbor: Robert Young

Cook, traveler, tree hugger. That’s our neighbor Robert Young. Returning to our occasional series to get to know and appreciate our Southern Gables neighbors, I met with Robert in his bright and spacious living room on a sunny afternoon. Meet Robert… wait, what, tree hugger?  Interview by Bruce McDonald.

Bruce: Well, Robert, I first met you back when the community garden was being set up, hauling dirt and mulch with a group of neighbors. I couldn’t say how long ago that was but it seems like it was way back. Have you lived here a long time? 

Robert:  Not so long, really. I was looking at some papers the other day and noticed the date that I bought this house. I was surprised to be reminded, only ten years! The neighborhood is so right for me, it’s like it’s always been home. I moved here from Austin.

So you’re a Texan?  No, no, I grew up in Ohio but I was in Texas for work. I retired while I was there and then stayed a little longer so my daughter could finish high school, but I chose to come to Colorado as soon as I could. Why Colorado, and how did you end up in Southern Gables?  I came to Colorado for my first job after graduating from forestry school. I worked in the Arapaho National Forest – such a beautiful place, and I loved everything about Colorado. Who wouldn’t want to come back here? My son lived in Lakewood, and that had a little to do with it too. When I saw this house, I knew it was the place for me. The neighborhood has turned out to be great too.

Forestry school – I guess that explains the “tree hugger” part.  Yes, I’m very committed to preserving our environment, and I’m involved with Sustainable Southern Gables… Was all your working career devoted to environmental work?  Not entirely, but it’s my background and it’s always been an interest. I have been active in the Sierra Club for years. I taught forestry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for some time, and then I went down to the University of Mississippi – Ole Miss – and taught graduate students in the Department of Education how to do research. While I was there I worked for PBS setting up satellite downlinks for distance learning. On the Internet?  No, not Internet. It was on live TV, with each classroom being able to transmit and receive. It was leading-edge technology, interactive, way before Zoom. That work was what brought me to Austin, and took me to retirement, that allowed me to come here to Colorado.

You mentioned that you like the neighborhood. What are some of the things you like about being here?  Hmm… the block parties come to mind. There was a big block party around the corner a few months ago, and here on my street we have had smaller ones from time to time. Getting together with the neighbors is always a good experience. I remember too, how friendly and helpful the neighbors were when I first moved in. And even now, I’m not that old but the guy next door will shovel my sidewalk and driveway when it snows. Oh, and old-fashioned small-town things like kids having bake sales, and everyone being supportive.

How about your hobbies, interests, leisure activities?  Gardening is the first thing that comes to mind. I’m quite a good cook too. And reading, and volunteering at my church; we serve community meals several times a month. I learned woodworking from my father and I’m pretty proud of what I can do, that cherrywood trunk for example. No screws, just dovetail joints. I’m prouder still that my son picked up that interest and learned from his grandfather, my dad, just the same way I did. He’s really good. And travel! I love to travel. I took a road trip to go back to my high school reunion in Ohio, and swung down to visit friends at Ole Miss, stopped in Memphis to have some of that barbecue… 4,000 miles, loved it. I’ve been to Marrakesh – rode on a camel in the desert – and all over Europe.

I know you’re active in Sustainable Southern Gables. What would you like us to know about that?  My favorite SSG project is the School/Community Garden. We received two grants from the city of Lakewood to build the garden with plots for Green Gables Elementary School students and Southern Gables residents. It has been very popular, every year there has been a waiting list for the community plots. It has resulted in a garden club and a student garden market at the school. When I lived in Austin, my neighborhood didn’t have a sustainable program or anything like it. I had a backyard garden and compost bin. Having the community garden here, and the annual community leaf-raking project held by the Neighborhood Association, are some things to be proud of in Southern Gables.

What are some other areas of sustainability that the group will be working on?  We want to involve our residents in Lakewood Sustainable programs – shade tree planting and outdoor water conservation. We’re also planning events involving “Bike to School” and student use of our garden.

Well, that’s quite a lot going on for the environment. How about leaving us with a favorite quote, some words of wisdom?  OK, there’s something I used to tell my kids when they were impatient for dinner. “Hunger is the best sauce.”

I can hear it now, “Aww, Da-ad…”  but I can see how it fits a lot of situations where instant gratification isn’t as great as you thought it would be. Having to wait or work for something makes it better. Thanks for the advice!  

To get involved in Sustainable Southern Gables, you can contact Robert at 720-638-5039 or [email protected].

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