Sailor dies in boating accident
Paul Youngk III felt at home, and at peace, on the water.
It’s where the Suffolk native died, doing what he loved.
Youngk, 65, of Cedar Crest Lane, was last seen Saturday on his sailing vessel, the Grafin, when it began taking on water, eventually capsizing off Fort Norfolk on the Elizabeth River, according to the Coast Guard. His body was recovered from inside the capsized boat around 8:45 a.m. Monday, according to the Norfolk Police Department.
Paul Youngk, the oldest of five brothers, loved God, his family, flying and being on the water.
“He was a very positive person,” said his wife, Bernadette Youngk, who had gone to school with Paul Youngk since the third grade. “He loved people. I think almost anybody that he knew loved him. He was a wonderful brother and son, and a wonderful husband.”
Dickie Youngk, a year younger than Paul Youngk, said his older brother was a larger-than-life kind of a person who always had a story and an adventure going.
“He was the oldest, but he also told me he was the smartest and better looking,” Dickie Youngk said.
After graduating high school, Paul Youngk went to Tidewater Community College at its old Portsmouth Campus and later transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University before obtaining his associate degree.
“I had an old Volvo, and when it would break down, I would jump in my duck hunting boat and ride my boat to the dock of TCC, the old Portsmouth campus,” he told TCC Today for a 2013 article.
He left TCC shy of his associate degree, attending VCU from 1973 to 1975, according to a biography of Paul Youngk on his LinkedIn page. He left VCU before earning a degree, though he returned to TCC and earned an associate of science degree in 2002.
Youngk, who had considered a career in medicine, instead shifted to aviation. While at TCC, he was a private pilot — having learned to fly when he was 15, according to his sister-in-law Carolyn Youngk — and after working for the Virginia Department of Health and as a charter boat captain, he became a commercial pilot.
The second oldest of five brothers, Dickie Youngk, said Paul got a lot of his sailing experience by taking up a Suffolk company on an offer to take a 55-foot sailboat to the Caribbean, and he ended up ferrying people from Key Largo, Fla., to Grand Bahama Island.
From there, Dickie Youngk said, Paul Youngk got married and moved to Washington D.C., trying to work his way up to getting his commercial license to fly. To do so, he took a 17-year old high school student who was deaf under his wing when no other instructor would take him.
“It’s part of how he worked his way up,” Dickie Youngk said.
He flew freight for FedEx, and also flew with Ryan International for 23 years — 18 of those as a captain — amassing more than 21,000 flight hours by the time he retired. His flying career included transporting military members, something his family noted he was proud to do.
Another of his brothers, Ralph Youngk, noted Paul’s love of duck hunting, saying he could recall having 15 or 20 little duck bands around his neck, when he would say every other duck hunter might get just two or three in a lifetime.
“He was a good shot,” Ralph Youngk said.
He was devoted to his family, married to wife Jane for 26 years before she died of cancer in 2017 in Salisbury, Md. He eventually moved back to Suffolk to a home near the Nansemond River and married his childhood sweetheart, Bernadette, after the two dated for a year.
Around that time, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and had been on chemotherapy for about two years. Bernadette Youngk said her husband was in a lot of pain, but he didn’t talk about it, and he didn’t let it stop him from doing anything.
“We wanted 20 years together as a married couple,” Bernadette Youngk said. “We only got one, but it was one wonderful year. … I would give anything to keep him, but he would have chosen this rather than being in pain and being bedridden. He was such a wonderful, caring man that everybody loved.”