Russ Younger spent a lot of time at the YMCA throughout his childhood and he turned that into a life that has included coaching and mentoring youth in a variety of activities, from golf to ballroom dancing.
“(Working with youth) has really been an important thing for me…I love seeing people learn, especially young people,” said Younger.
Younger was born in Idaho but grew up in Oregon. He attended the University of Oregon and earned a degree in physical education and recreation. After graduation he worked as a YMCA camp director before serving for six years in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.
“I enlisted before I was drafted. I didn’t believe in the Vietnamese War but I felt an obligation to serve,” he said.
Eventually, Younger and his wife, Ann, decided they wanted a change. Moving from the city to the wilderness and enjoying beautiful, natural surroundings was a common wish of many young people at the time. The Youngers looked into numerous different towns and communities, including some as far away as the Yukon.
“We ended up (in Golden) and it’s probably a good thing because after we were here for a short time we realized we were actually people, people,” said Younger. “It wouldn’t have worked (in the Yukon.) We’d proably have spent all of our time trying to find friends.”
Younger’s extroverted personality led him to be involved in numerous activities and clubs in the community and, not surprisingly given his degree, most of them involved sports.
Over the years, he led cross country skiing camps out of his Blaeberry home, taught the junior golf program at the Golden Golf Club, led ballroom dancing classes and coached the swim team when the municipal swimming pool opened.
The couple’s home in the valley was originally without power or running water. Ann, a nurse at the hospital, would bring home containers of water in the evenings and flashlights, candles and kerosene lamps helped light up the Younger home for the couple and their two children, Mark and Kimberly.
Mark wasn’t sure what to make of their new environment when they eventually got electricity.
“The first night we had electricity we were sitting at the table eating and I remember him saying ‘Dad, I’m not sure I’m going to like this’,” Young said. “That was his life and he didn’t know anything else.”
Younger held numerous jobs throughout his time in the area, including work at the lumber mill and as a cross country tour operator.
The cross country tours took place along a route in between two yurts that he built near Spillimacheen. That operation came to be too much work for just himself, so he teamed up with a partner and they decided to build a backcountry chalet. That chalet turned out to be the enormous Purcell Lodge (now known as Purcell Mountain Lodge).
“It ended up being a little bigger than a little chalet but it became the Cadillac of backcountry huts,” he said.
The lodge, accessible only by helicopter, gained a considerable amount of acclaim from travel and lifestyle magazines, including a cover story in a 1992 issue of National Geographic Traveler.
Younger got out of that business in the late ‘90s.
Now, Younger continues to golf whenever he can and he and his wife have taken numerous trips all around the world, including an upcoming trip to the Galapagos Islands.
For Younger, however, there’s no question where home is.
“This community is an absolute gem,” he said. “It’s been a great place to live.”