Robert L. Young Jr., 85, Carmel, passed away June 23, 2018. We were all robbed a bit, by the dementia, but the splendid life that Robert Young created for those that graced his life, was pure delight. He made our hearts smile; a room was never the same once he entered in his quest to follow that star. He was born September 11, 1932, in Lima, Ohio, the son of the late Robert L. Sr. and Marcene (Prosser) Young. He married the love of his lifetime Margaret “Maggie” Jean McCallum on March 14, 1958. She preceded him in death on July 2, 2001, after 43 years of marriage taking the best part of him, now Bob has joined his sweetheart in the bliss of the everlasting beaches of Hilton Head Island.
Robert was a 1950 graduate of Broad Ripple High School. He received his bachelor’s degree from DePauw University in 1954, where he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. Following graduation, Robert enlisted in the United States Air Force the same year. He faithfully served the voluntary role as Entertainment Director based in Niagara Falls while positioned as an Interceptor Controller and until he was honorably discharged in 1957 as First Lieutenant. While booking talent such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, etc. for domestic Air Force Bases Robert fell in love both with the business of entertainment and entertaining people with his character.
In 1962 Robert ushered in the “Golden Age of Musical Comedy” while in his 30’s by accepting the role of Vice President and General Manager of Starlight Musicals overseeing a six-week summer Broadway series. While serving in this role Bob produced star driven shows written by Rodgers and Hammerstein or Lerner and Loewe. He had a knack for securing talent such as Carol Channing, Mitzi Gaynor, Jane Powell, Yul Brynner, Carol Burnett, Debbie Reynolds, Jack Benny, Dick Van Dyke, Perry Como, Liza Minnelli, Sammy Davis Jr. and Liberace. Bob was no doubt known for his ‘story’s’. One famous story is that of Yul Brenner performing in “The King and I.” Bob picked up Mr. Brenner and his son from the airport and learned that Yul had a horrible cold and could hardly speak. Bob was bereft of speech discovering his star was ill. Brenner, however, reassured Bob that his son had an identical voice and would perform from the orchestra pit while Brenner moved his lips, and it worked. The audience was not the wise, the show was a success and Bob learned another trick of the trade as he did in life, ‘the show must go on’. Aside to fraternizing with celebrities, Bob was equally proud to have been a part in creating a local theatrical community employing Indianapolis area musicians and actors and a mini-city of carpenters, painters, electricians, stagehands, set and prop designers on site. Bob was the last of the titan’s representing the great summer stock outdoor theatres.
Bob ushered in the ‘80’s by expanding his reach outside of Indianapolis producing both Tony Award winning Broadway shows as well as over 40 national Broadway tours across the country and abroad such as Marie Osmond in “The Sound of Music”, Theodore Bikel in "Fiddler on the Roof", Hal Linden in “Man of La Mancha”, Robert Goulet in “Camelot", and the prestigious 20th anniversary tour of “A Chorus Line” throughout the United States, Japan, and Asia. Robert was known across the country as very loyal to those he worked with be it his office, partners, celebrities and community and will forever be remembered for his great heart and sense of humor. Everyone loved to be present for the opening night of his shows just to witness his famous opening night speeches. Bob had a way of sensationalizing every conversation, pitch, memory, or occurrence as he was the consummate promoter. “Smiling Bob” they called him throughout the theatrical community, leaving a legacy behind that touched so many lives in a positive way.
A few things you may not have known about Bob (Bobby, Youngy, or Mr. Young and Smilin’ Bob): A hand shake, or even more your word was his bond when making a deal, he loved reading and sitting watching sports in “his” chair, stopped at Rosslyn Bakery daily for breakfast but would deny it, and eat PB&J’s with Charlie’s Chips for lunch, cheated in golf “don’t count that” he would always say, loved Las Vegas, named his cars, wore too much cologne, and promoted Elvis’ last show at Market Square Arena. Many of you listen to “Desperado” while in elevators, not with Bob who would sing showtunes full tilt regardless of the company. “Take care of yourself kid, it’s a full-time job,” was a recurring comment from Bob.
As a young father, Robert actively volunteered as a coach for the Carmel Dad’s Club and the YMCA. He was a board member for the Heartland Film Festival and Starlight Musicals. He was also a long-time member of League of American Theatres and Producers, Woodland Country Club, Meridian Hills and the Riviera, and a grateful member of Second Presbyterian Church.
He is survived by four children, Nancy Young Gauntt, Linda Marie (Jerry) Richardson, Gregory (Jennifer) Young, and Robert Jeffery Young; six grandchildren, Heather Gauntt Libonati, Sarah Gauntt, Devon Young, Amanda “Claire” Young, Robert Ross Richardson, and Margaret “Maggie” Richardson. He was preceded in passing by a sister, Nancy Thompson.
Bob’s dearest family both immediate and heartfelt theatrical community bid a final curtain call farewell to one of a kind “Smiling Bob”, one singular sensation every step that he took who did it his way. Following is one of many letters received from a dear friend and longtime colleague, in NY that sheds light on the character of Bob Young:
The first time I met Bob, I didn’t know what to think. He had a great sense of humor, loved to laugh and had a big warm hug for everyone. We all had to be available for dinner at Frankie and Johnny’s when he came into town and we wouldn’t have considered being unavailable. Who was this crazy guy who convinced the biggest international stars to work in Indianapolis and to tour North America? He gave everyone a chance and could spot talent a mile away. I was mortified when one of my assistants gave him 3 pages of notes at an opening. Instead of being offended, he told me they were really great notes. That assistant went on to produce Rent and Hamilton. It was Bob who convinced Richard Harris who starred in the hit movie Camelot to perform in the live stage version. I believe Bob was instrumental in my becoming Richard Harris’ agent. Whenever inevitable problems arose on the deal side, it was Bob who found a solution and kept the peace as well as relationships intact. Most of all, we’ll always remember him, because this man, who was so down to earth also saw the future. He created the bridge between the touring industry and Broadway and made it all possible for us to do what we’re doing today.
Rest in peace Dad we love you and are all grateful to have you in our hearts.
“And I know if I’ll only be true, to this glorious quest, that my heart will lie peaceful and calm, when I’m laid to my rest…”
Private services were held by the immediate family to join Bob alongside Margaret in the Memorial Gardens of Second Presbyterian Church. A celebration of life is being prepared by the family to be scheduled in the coming weeks with details provided at flannerbuchanan.com. Memorial contributions may be directed to the charities.
We would like to share a heartfelt thank you to ManorCare of Summer Trace and Heartland Hospice caregivers for their love and care of our father.
Arrangements were entrusted to Flanner Buchanan – Carmel, and online condolences may be shared by visiting flannerbuchanan.com .