HENDERSONVILLE– When Paul Mansfield Young lost his wife of more than twenty years to cancer, he found comfort in an unexpected way – through the nurses who cared for her. Now, Mr. Young is giving hope to countless future nurses and patients through a $1 million gift to Blue Ridge Community College’s Educational Foundation. His generosity will fund an ongoing nursing scholarship, new instructional equipment, and other resources needed to help students become the kind of compassionate professionals that his wife experienced.
“The nurses treated Renee like she was their own mother,” said Young.
In his final days with Maurene “Renee” Young, Paul spent nearly every day over two months at an area hospital. The family had only learned of the aggressive cancer a year earlier. For years, Renee believed that the pain in her foot was only plantar fasciitis, until an x-ray revealed a cause for more concern. By the next spring, she required constant care. Around the clock, nurses rotated in and out of the hospital room, gently caring for Renee’s every need, providing encouragement and protecting her dignity in sensitive moments.
“They treated her with the utmost love and respect, doting over her and making her number one,” said Kim Young, Paul’s daughter. “It takes a very special person to become a nurse.”
After Renee passed away on April 30, 2023, Paul wanted to somehow express his gratitude to the nurses who had aided his wife. He considered bringing a gift to the hospital, but with so many nurses involved, he wasn’t sure who should receive it. Instead, Paul decided to help generations of nurses with the resources his successful family businesses had earned over his lifetime.
Through Blue Ridge Community College’s nursing program, the $1M gift will create a legacy in Renee’s honor including a scholarship in her name. The gift is intended to help meet the critical local need for nurses, as well as fill hospital rooms with the kind of caring and knowledgeable nurses that the Young family experienced.
“We are so very moved by Mr. Paul Young’s story and love for his wife,” said Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College. “His investment in tomorrow’s nurses through our College will have a profound and lasting impact. We’re grateful to the Young family for entrusting this great honor to us as we educate nursing professionals in Renee’s name.”
After Mr. Young shared his decision, Blue Ridge nursing students, faculty and staff thanked him with a signed and framed piece of artwork that read, “Thank you for believing in us.”
“I just hope it makes a difference,” said Young, “and that it helps make many happy, caring nurses.”
Today, Renee’s family fondly remembers her adventurous and spontaneous spirit. She loved to explore new places with her husband by recreational vehicle, an activity that brought them closer over the years. Paul recalled that each year she would surround their country home with flowers. Most importantly, Renee is remembered as an exceptionally caring person who loved her family and cherished time with her children and grandchildren.
“She wanted to take care of others more than herself,” said Kim.
“Renee was just a terrific woman,” Paul added. “She made it worth getting up every morning for her.”
Family Businesses Making a Difference
In Western North Carolina, Paul Young is known for his work with Shoney’s restaurants and Kounty Line convenience stores.
Paul Young built and operated 13 Shoney’s between 1971 and 1978 with his brother, James Cubby Young, in the vicinities of Brevard, Asheville, Enka-Candler, Waynesville, Morganton, Forest City, Florence City in South Carolina and the Tri-Cities region of Tennessee. His first job with Shoney’s was at the age of 12, washing car windows outside a restaurant in Charleston, West Virginia. Paul’s manager took note of his dedication, and he worked his way up to a cook by age 17. By age 23, he worked as a vice president over 14 Shoney’s locations in Charlotte, North Carolina. With a firm belief in reward for hard work, in 1979 he gave each of the managers who oversaw his WNC restaurants the opportunity to purchase them.
More recently, Mr. Young built and operated a series of Kounty Line convenience stores. The name was derived from the location of the original store near Airport Road in Arden, which sat squarely on the Buncombe and Henderson County lines. The store even had an interior line painted down the middle to denote the boundary. He later expanded to four total stores, with two operated by his son and one by each of his daughters.
Paul Young is proud of the hard work it took to build his businesses, finding inspiration from his father’s work ethic. This hard work has also served numerous charitable organizations that Young supports, now including Blue Ridge Community College’s nursing program.
“In life, I believe a person can do whatever they want to do,” said Paul. “If my dad can do it from the holler that we came from, then anyone in this world can do it. You just need to have a little drive in you.”About Blue Ridge Community College's Educational Foundation:
Blue Ridge Community College’s Educational Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports the students, faculty, and programs of Blue Ridge Community College. Learn more about the Foundation’s work at BlueRidge.edu/Foundation.
About Blue Ridge Community College:
Blue Ridge Community College is a two-year, post-secondary institution that elevates the educational experience to prepare students for 21st-century success in the workplace or at four-year colleges and universities. Providing real-life, affordable, and accessible education, the College offers more than 200 degrees, diplomas, and certificates; more than 200 online courses; and fast-tracked job training.
Pictured: The Young family stands with healthcare leaders at Blue Ridge Community College’s Health Sciences Center. From left to right: Leigh Angel, Dean of Health Sciences; Kim Young; Paul Young; Judith Fender; and Dr. Amy Szoka, Director of Nursing. Photos and article by Benjamin Rickert.