Mad River Union
ARCATA –Annette (pronounced Ann-ETT-ah, in the European style) Jicha Young played the pipe organ for her first funeral at Paul’s Chapel in Arcata when she “had just turned 16. And I got paid 50 cents!”
Now, after working at Paul’s, on and off, part-time and full-time, for nearly 70 years, Mrs. Young, as the customers who request her help call her, is retiring.
The business is throwing her a retirement party on Friday, March 31 from 4 to 7 p.m., to which family, friends and co-workers are invited.
“Friends” probably means half the county as Young has ties in the Willow Creek area as well as on the coast.
Young was born in Arcata “in the old Trinity Hospital that burned down,” She went to Arcata High.
Young raised a family with her husband Vernon, taught music for 54 years, and worked full time, singing in every part of her life.
She sang and played the organ for funerals, rosaries, and visitations. She sang in choruses and choirs in high school as well as being the accompanist “ and getting credit for it.” She sang her children to sleep every night.
Young met her husband when she was teaching in Willow Creek.
“I taught kindergarten in the mornings and music to the whole school in the afternoons,” she said.
When Vernon was transferred to teach math at Eureka Junior High, she gave private music lessons at home, raised her two sons and a daughter, and “kept playing for funerals.”
Young’s “secret ambition” after graduating from Pacific Union College in Angwin had been to study in New York and sing opera. But the lyric soprano chose another path and hasn’t looked back since.
Even after caring for her husband when he was ill and after his death, she went back to work at Paul’s.
Folks were requesting her help. All the old Portuguese and Italian families knew her, as well as the people in Willow Creek and Hoopa.
Her daughter, Deanne Albright, said “Mom, you’re over 80, Why are you working full time?”
“It keeps my mind young,” her mother answered, according to Albright.
Her daughter works just down the street in Arcata and can check that her mother’s car is parked by Paul’s every day.
Young’s earliest memory of Paul’s Chapel was “my grandpa was buried from there in 1939,” she said. “Mr. Thomas was the owner then.”
Young remembered that Paul’s was started by “a man named Mr. Paul. He moved to Pacific Grove and started a Paul’s Chapel there, and then moved to Florida, where he started another Paul’s Chapel.”
Randy Anderson, general manager of Paul’s, said that Young will be missed.
“She’s the first one people talk to,” he said. “All of her career she’s helped people through the most difficult time of their lives.”
Working with death requires that “you have to control your heart,” Young said. Even though her daughter “buckled down and covered for me, I couldn’t train her to get a hard heart,” Young explained.
Albright’s memory was in sync with her mother’s. “They tried to train me but I was too much of a big baby. I was sitting in the office crying when it wasn’t even someone I knew,” she said.
But helping families in the difficult time of the death of a loved one has been a gift that Young has given the community, with kindness and grace.
Now it’s time for the community to give this woman who many characterize as “a giver” a great sendoff.
“I’ve had so many emails from former students who are coming,” Young said. Her two sons and their families are traveling from Washington state and Willow Creek.
When asked what her plans were, Young said, “That will be no problem. I plan on spoiling my children and my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren.”
Grandchildren include Joshua, Amber, Tiffany, Ryan, and J. T. Great grandchildren include Briana (coincidentally born on Young’s birthday), Trek, and Braydon.
“I’m determined I’m going to make a hundred or better,” Young said, laughing. “I will harass my kids and get even.”
Paul’s Chapel is located at 1070 H Street in Arcata. (707) 822-2445.