WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed legislation Wednesday renaming Bay Pines VA Medical Center in memory of the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.
The facility will now be called the C.W. Bill Young Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
"This is a fitting way to recognize Bill Young's extraordinary legacy of public service and his unwavering support of our veterans," Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said in a statement after the signing of H.R. 3302.
"It would mean everything to my husband," Young's wife, Beverly, said in an email. "He spent his whole life trying to protect and serve those brave men and women who so proudly serve this great country. What an honor to have his name on the hospital that takes care of America's greatest commodity — soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. He loved the vets and they loved him."
Young, a Pinellas County Republican who died Oct. 18 at age 82, played an instrumental role in growing the facility through budget earmarks, which had becoming increasingly controversial in recent years before being banned.
"Florida has done very well because of the Congress recognizing needs," he said in a 2010 interview. "You want to talk about earmarks? The first big appropriation that I did years ago was to build a hospital for veterans at Bay Pines."
The VA facility at Bay Pines, an area between St. Petersburg and Seminole, was built during the Great Depression. Some buildings on the site opened in 1933; the hospital opened in 1934. In the late 1970s, it underwent a major expansion thanks to funding secured by Young.
Young has other public facilities in his name: the marine science complex at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and the currently closed Tampa Bay Water Reservoir. His public visitation service last month was held at the Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center in Pinellas Park.