Not even U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young's wife Beverly expected his announcement Wednesday that he is retiring from politics after a career that's lasted almost as long as she has been alive.
"It surprised the s--- out of me," she said.
She said she knew her husband had been having a tough time coping with painful back ailments that over the years have cut his 6-foot-2 frame down to 5-foot-8. Still, when she walked into his hospital room Wednesday morning and he told her his decision, she said, "it floored me. I cried. I cried hard."
In 2005, Beverly Young said she would run for her husband's seat if she didn't like any of the other candidates who stepped up to seek his office when he retired.
So would she run next year?
On Wednesday evening, she said if the only Democratic candidate remains St. Petersburg lawyer Jessica Ehrlich, "I may consider running for his seat. She doesn't know what she's doing."
Like her 82-year-old husband, Beverly Young, 57, has been an advocate for wounded veterans. Unlike him, she has not been shy about calling bureaucrats and top brass bad names. One general called her "a pain in the a--."
If Young is plain vanilla, his wife is hot chili peppers. He's the elder statesman in the halls of Congress and she's the outraged protester outside — sometimes literally.
In 2006 she attended President George W. Bush's State of the Union address with her husband while wearing a T-shirt that said, "Support Our Troops: Defend Our Freedom." Capital Police threw her out, saying they considered that to be a protest.
"Read my shirt — it is not a protest," she told police. When they held their ground, she shot back, "You are an idiot." Then her language got more colorful. Police finally agreed they overreacted.
While Young had the political clout, she provided the passion and occasional profanity.
"He once told me that I was everything he was not allowed to be," she said in a 2005 interview.
In 2006, after the Army tightened rules about when wounded soldiers could accept donations, she said, "F--- that! These kids ought to be able to get anything they want from a grateful American." In case there was any doubt, she told the reporter, "Print that."
Last year, Army Staff Sgt. Matthew S. Sitton of Largo was killed in Afghanistan after sending Young a letter pointing out problems there and predicting his own death. Mrs. Young had been trying to persuade her husband to oppose continued American involvement in Afghanistan. Sitton's letter helped persuade Young to change his position.
"She was there the day my husband was flown into MacDill Air Force Base," Sitton's widow, Sarah, said. "She was amazingly sweet to us, and very helpful."
She grew up in Seminole, the youngest of five kids. After high school she married a deputy. They moved to Colorado, where she became a firefighter and emergency medical technician. Her EMT training came from military flight surgeons, which sparked her interest in the treatment of wounded soldiers.
That marriage didn't last and she moved back home. She became a secretary in Young's office. Young divorced his first wife and married her in 1985.
Former Young aide George Cretekos recalls the Youngs visiting All Children's Hospital not long after they wed. They learned about the need for a bone marrow matching program, and she told her husband, "Well you're a big congressman up in D.C. Do something about it." In 1986 a bill Young sponsored launched a federal bone marrow registry that has saved many lives.