February 28, 2016
BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“I want to be just like Mary Young when I grow up.”
These words have been uttered at some point by Chicago women of all ages about the vibrant Mary Adams Young, who passed away on the 20th of February at age 97 (with the city’s men adding that she was the woman they would have most enjoyed as a dinner partner). Mary was simply the most elegant woman in town, with the loveliest of manners rooted in real kindness, a great wisdom blended with enthusiasm, humor with humility, and great beauty throughout her long life.
Suzanne McCullagh, Chair and Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute, perhaps knew Mary best. Mary rarely missed her weekly day of volunteering at the department and mentoring interns. Of her friend and fellow art-lover, Suzanne shares:
“I adored Mary Young. She became a volunteer in the Prints and Drawings Department in 1976, just after I began fulltime. We loved the same things, Italian prints and drawings, and as longtime Chicagoans had shared many things. What an inspiration she was – such a gracious lady with a great heart, fine eye, and darling sense of humor. Everyone loved her. She served on our department’s advisory committee since 1980 and our whole department mourns her loss. We have lovely memories of her at our department’s Christmas parties, wearing a scarf we all designed for her years ago. She was a very cherished friend.”
An active member of many cultural, social service, and educational organizations, Mary found time to travel around the world, both with her husband George and then with friends following his death. At a birthday party her family gave in her honor, the centerpieces were flags from all the many countries she visited. Her favorite trips, however, were to visit her daughter Blair, son George, and their families in St. Louis and other cities.
An alumna of the Latin School of Chicago, when it had separate girls’ and boys’ schools, she remembered her classmate Nancy Reagan and helped Latin volunteers on several occasions. Almost to the time of her death Mary loved volunteering at the Art Institute, going to the movies with girlfriends, and hosting dinner parties for eight in her lovely apartment overlooking the lake. She never stopped reminding people of the actress Jennifer Jones in her strikingly beautiful appearance.
A Chicago Tribune article by the legendary society editor Eleanor Page described her wartime wedding on March 24, 1944 to the dashing lieutenant (see photo, above):
“One of the prettiest and simplest of spring weddings will be that of Mary Seymour Adams, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cyrus Adams, Jr. and Lt. George Berkeley Young of Hartford, Connecticut, at 4:30 in the afternoon in the chapel of St. James Episcopal Cathedral. Only a handful of relatives and young people will hear the Rev. Duncan Browne read the service with a slightly larger reception to follow in the Fountain Room at the Casino.”
The prettiest bride became the enduring statement of nonpareil grace for Chicago. She will be dearly missed, but will endure always in our memories.