Don Young eulogized as deal-maker and dad

Don Young’s funeral home photo and burial program. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

More than two dozen members of the U.S. House on Wednesday attended a memorial service for Alaska Congressman Don Young at a church in Great Falls, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. where Young lived for much of his 49 years in office.

They included Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., as well as House Republicans in the right-wing Freedom Caucus, such as Jim Jordan of Ohio and Louie Gohmert of Texas. Democratic members came, too: Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. Grace Napolitano of California.

While Congress members and staffers spoke of Young’s gruff manner and bipartisan deal-making, one of Young’s two daughters told of his devotion to family.

“For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Dawn Vallely. But I was Dawn Young when I was little, so just imagine growing up like that,” she said.

She was 7 when her father was first elected to the U.S. House. Vallely said she learned early on that family came first with him. The lesson came at age 11, after she threw what she described as a dramatic tantrum.

“And I looked up at my mother with my tear-stained little face and I said, ‘I want my daddy,'” she recalled at the service.

Dad wasn’t available. He was in Alaska, working. But the next day, Dawn was at her Washington, D.C.-area school when she heard an announcement calling her to the office. Waiting for her there was Congressman Don Young.

“He had got on a plane and he had flown all night because his very bratty 11-year-old daughter said the words, ‘I want my daddy,’” she said.

A second public church service for Young will be Saturday at Anchorage Baptist Temple.

Young died March 18, at age 88.

Alaskans campaigning to fill out the remainder of his term include Republicans Nicholas Begich III and former legislator John Coghill, as well as Anchorage Assembly member Chris Constant, a Democrat; garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels and surgeon Al Gross, who both filed as non-partisans.

Most of the cadidates say they are also running in the regular election for the congressional term that begins in January.

The candidate filing deadline for the special election is Friday.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at

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