What began as a love story ended as a love story for two widely known and much admired Middleburg area natives and long-time residents.
On October 30, 2021, Robert Macdonald “Sandy” Young died peacefully in his sleep at his home on Denton Farm in The Plains, Virginia. He was 85. Two weeks later, on November 14, his wife of 59 years, Claudia Saffer Young, also passed away peacefully in her sleep at their home. She was 84.
The two were childhood friends growing up in Middleburg, Virginia, and as Claudia liked to say, they “rolled off the potty together.”
Sandy Young was born in New York City on August 22, 1936, to Robert Bonnell Young and Sybil Whigham Young, and the family moved to the Middleburg area at Denton Farm in 1939. Claudia Young was born in Washington, D.C., on June 15, 1937, the daughter of Thornton Delbert and Martha Gresham Saffer.
They first met while attending The Hill School in Middleburg until Sandy finished middle school at Aiken (South Carolina) Preparatory. He went to the Pomfret School in Connecticut for high school, where he was a coxswain on the crew team considered one of the finest in all of New England. Claudia attended Holton Arms in Washington, D.C.
Sandy graduated from the University of Virginia and was a member of the St. Elmo fraternity. Claudia Young attended Southern Seminary in Buena Vista, Virginia, and regularly visited Sandy in Charlottesville while both were in school.
In the summer of 1962, they eloped to Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and began their married life in Syosset on Long Island, 30 miles east of New York City. Sandy initially worked for the New York Jockey Club as a registrar at major Thoroughbred sales. He had developed a love of horses as a child fox hunting with his parents and later rode as a jockey in the local steeple chase races.
Claudia was born and raised in Middleburg, the daughter of the town’s only doctor, and spent her childhood exploring woods and streams all around and occasionally joining her father on house calls. She developed a lifelong love of birds, flowers, and plants from helping her mother tend the family garden.
In 1965, the Youngs moved back to Virginia so that Sandy could help run the family farm. Over the years, he also worked at Middleburg’s Lee Advertising and became a fixture on the local steeplechase scene as a steward and race official. He also worked for the National Steeplechase Association for a time.
Sandy was an enthusiastic owner, trainer, and breeder of steeplechase and Thoroughbred racehorses. For many summers, he and other Middleburg area friends, including his great lifelong friend, Lewis Wiley of The Plains, traveled to Saratoga Springs for the annual Thoroughbred sales.
“We worked hard,” Lewis Wiley said. “But we played harder.”
The Youngs built their home at Denton Farm, where they raised their three now-adult daughters. Sandy continued to train horses and his daughters described Claudia as “the ultimate mother, volunteering as a room parent at Hill School, tending her flock of chickens, cooking amazing dishes and crafting the perfect hand-written note for any occasion.”
Indeed, Claudia was a gifted and self-taught calligrapher and frequently was asked by friends and neighbors to design all manner of wedding invitations, formal announcements, and birthday and anniversary messages when one of her friends was undergoing treatment for a serious illness out of town one winter, Claudia hand-wrote and mailed her a meticulously crafted note of encouragement every day for months.
Sandy was an avid golfer, no surprise considering his great-great-grandfather, Charles Blair Macdonald was one of the game’s premier golf course designers and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. In 1908, he designed the world-famous and exclusive National Golf Links of the Peconic Bay in Southampton, New York.
Sandy always liked to joke that he wasn’t allowed to play his great-great grandfather’s masterpiece unless accompanied by a club member.
The Youngs were known for their kindness, sense of humor, and love of spending time with family and friends. And, oh yes, how they could trip the light fantastic and quickly clear a dance floor.
They are survived by three daughters, Cathy Hartley (David) of The Plains, Mary B. Moore (Dan) of Charlotte, N.C., Susan McCaskey (Sean) of Middleburg, and grandchildren Campbell and Mac Hartley, Jack, Charlie, and Daniel Moore, and Caitlin McCaskey.
A service celebrating their lives will be held Saturday, November 27 at 2 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, with a reception to follow at the Middleburg Community Center.
In accordance with the Youngs’ wishes, the family encourages you to reach out to friends and family and celebrate life. Donations in their memory can be made to The Hill School in Middleburg or the Middleburg Community Center.