COLUMNIST MARILYN HAGERTY -- Goodbye to 'Mrs. Wheat,' the late Pat Young

The little cemetery near Berlin, N.D., is neat, orderly and peaceful. The sun was shining, and there wasn't even a breeze stirring when they placed the remains of Patricia Byrne Young in a gravesite there Friday.

The little cemetery near Berlin, N.D., is neat, orderly and peaceful. The sun was shining, and there wasn't even a breeze stirring when they placed the remains of Patricia Byrne Young in a gravesite there Friday.

She was buried near her husband, the late, long-time Sen. Milton R. Young of North Dakota.

At the cemetery her brother, Dr. W.R. Byrne of Nokomis, Fla., spoke briefly. He told family and friends that when Pat was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 10 years ago, she moved to Florida.

At the time, she had called her brother from her home in Sun City, Ariz. She reminded him that when he was a baby, he suffered from colic and was very sick. She said, "I helped take care of you then, and now it's your turn to take care of me."

She moved to Florida and went into an independent living home until she moved into care for Alzheimer patients seven years ago.


In her earlier life, she preferred to live quietly and in the background. But Pat Byrne Young had a wide acquaintance with people of North Dakota and people in Washington.

Because she was Sen. Young's office manager, she played a part in the history of North Dakota for almost 40 years. The biography of Sen. Young, "Mr. Wheat" by Andrea Winkjer Collin, describes how the senator hired Pat in 1945 over the telephone in a call to her home in Bowman, N.D.

When she asked how much the job paid, he told her $3,600 a year -- and that was a good salary back then.

Pat, who was 22, had attended Dakota Business College in Fargo and had been a court reporter for Cass County Judge P.M. Paulsen in Fargo for three years.

She knew shorthand, an office skill valued on Capitol Hill. She served first at full time and later part-time in the office of Sen. Young until 1981 , when he retired as the most senior Republican in the Senate at the time.

She has married Sen. Young on Dec. 27, 1969, six months after the death of his first wife, Malinda Young, on June 2, 1969.

Family pictures in the narthex of Holy Rosary Catholic Church in LaMoure, N.D., helped tell the story of the life of Pat Byrne Young. Among her fondest memories were fact-finding trips she made with the senator and especially one trip to China in 1976.

Their traveling group was at the first invitation of the Communist Chinese government in more than a year.


On the home front, Pat Young always was especially fond of grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Many of them were among around 50 people at her memorial services conducted by the Rev. Kevin Willis.

Visiting over salads, bars and buns following the final ceremony at the cemetery, friends and family talked of Pat Young. Among those present was Bob Christman, who worked in the office of Sen. Young in the 1970s. He has described her as "the office mother, a sweet and gentle woman who was never changed by big-city life."

In the Young biography, "Mr. Wheat," the senator is said to have had relied on those close to him on voting decisions. He is quoted as saying, "My wife, Pat, has some strong convictions, and she gives me a little lecture once in a while. I don't always heed her advice, but sometimes her judgment is better than mine."

Pat Young also followed up as a member of Ford's Theatre Society board of trustees in Washington, when the senator was unable to keep up with the meetings. Sen. Young had played an important role in restoration of the historic theatre where Abraham Lincoln was shot.

The restoration went forward as a bipartisan effort that Time magazine applauded by saying, "Now for those who revere Lincoln, a visit to the restored Ford's Theatre will be an unforgettable experience."

A key person in the services for Pat Young was Marcia Young, who was a close friend to Pat and a daughter-in-law of the senator. Pat Young had strong ties with the people around LaMoure because she and the senator would spend summer vacations there.

Following Sen. Young's funeral on June 4, 1983, there was a mile-long processional of cars from an auditorium in LaMoure to the family cemetery one mile north of Berlin. Standing in waiting was Young's 7,500 pound obelisk monument erected on a seven-foot deep concrete foundation.

On the north side it says, "Friend of Farmers. Mr. Wheat."


Pat Young was there 27 years ago and was consoled by throngs of friends and family. She is remembered as the woman who was efficient as she ran his office and strong as she stood by the side of the North Dakota senator.

She tried to balance out his life with pleasures such as golf and friendships across the state of North Dakota. After his death, she continued her visits to North Dakota, often spending summer vacations in Bismarck at the home of a friend, Alice (Mrs. John) Hjelle.

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