PLANT CITY — He worked hard, and he worked long hours. He might even have been considered a workaholic. But James Young's family never felt slighted.
"He was absolutely a family man," said his daughter, Debbie Dominick. "Family was always first. But business was a close second. He was so close to his employees that he almost considered them part of his family."
Mr. Young, who died Jan. 6 at age 79 after a period of declining health, was equally successful as a businessman and as a family man. He spent most of his career with Florida Mining and Materials Corp., where he was vice president of prestressed concrete operations. He later became senior vice president of Southern Prestressed Inc.
But he worked primarily to provide for his family. His non-work hours were filled with outdoor activities with his three children, including weekend getaways to a lake house he built in Polk County.
"That was his favorite place in the world," said his son Tom. "That's probably where we'll scatter his ashes."
Family was so important to Mr. Young that even after his first marriage ended, and he moved from Lakeland to Plant City in the 1970s, he remained an integral part of that family, and a close friend to his first wife, Martha.
He was born and raised in Tampa and attended Hillsborough High School. He loved sports, and he was a star swimmer in high school. He would love to have shone on the football field, too, but he'd tell people he was just a bench warmer, and he wasn't even very good at that.
After high school, he attended Georgia Tech and then the University of Florida, where he earned his engineering degree and developed his passion for Gator football.
After college, he and his wife Martha, whom he began dating in junior high school, moved to Lakeland. He built his career there and found success almost immediately. The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce named him its Outstanding Young Man in 1966.
When Mr. Young wasn't immersed in work and family activities, he was usually involved in civic organizations. He served as president of the Kiwanis Club in Lakeland, president of Sheltered Workshop and commodore of the Lakeland Yacht and Country Club.
His second wife, Blanche, passed away a few years ago. Mr. Young's bond with his first wife and their children was so strong that he immediately became part of the family again, often having dinner with Martha, and always spending holidays with the family, as if his marriage to Martha had never ended.
"The fact is, my mom is a saint," Tom Young said. "She took him back, just as a friend, and made him part of her life and her family again."
He had suffered some health problems in recent years and was there earlier this month doing rehab at South Florida Baptist Hospital. The staff there nicknamed him "Sugar Daddy," and though no one there remembers how the name originated, everyone thought it suited him.
Even though his health had been declining, his death from heart and respiratory failure was fairly sudden.
"We're just feeling at peace," his daughter said. "He was a faithful person, and we all knew where he was going. We're at peace because we know he's home with the Lord Jesus Christ. He's in good hands."
Besides his daughter and his son Tom, Mr. Young is survived by his son James and 10 grandchildren.
Marty Clear writes life stories about area residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.