The Young family was supposed to go out for pizza on the night of Sept. 18, 1997.
They were going to celebrate the kitchen and bathroom renovations finally being done. Young’s husband was out with the guys playing strike-’em-out, a variation of baseball in which you have to hit a little rubber ball into a box with an X inside. But Young’s daughter, Rashida, didn’t feel like waiting and left to go out with her friends. So Young took her son, Jason, to Burger King for dinner after his football practice and then she went to the post office to mail some bills.
When she walked through the back door of her brown brick house on the West Side, the phone was ringing and her minister, along with police detectives and officers were standing on the front porch knocking urgently on the windows and doors.
Her husband, Greg Young, a 15th District Chicago police officer, had been shot and killed during an armed robbery. He was 41.
“I never thought at 41 that I would be without him,” Young said.
It has been almost 10 years since Greg Young was killed, but for Gladis it feels like it was yesterday.
“I think about him all the time, all the time,” she said.
Young still lives in the same home on the same tree-lined street where she and her husband raised their children.
“It took a long time to stop listening for him to come in,” Young recalled.
Young and her husband both grew up on the West Side and met while in high school. She was being picked on by some bullies and he, “Stepped in. He was being a knight in shining armor,” Young recalled.
Together at the age of 15, Young knew her husband wanted to join the force and had always talked about it in high school.
“It was his dream to be a Chicago police officer,” Young said.
He eventually ended up patrolling the streets in Austin. With her husband on the force, Young leaned on her faith and tried to live a normal life.
“It seemed like as soon as I got relaxed, something happened.”
What happened devastated the family and the community.
“I stayed on that day he was killed for years,” Young said. “It’s like a recorder. It kept rewinding and replaying in my mind. I wasn’t doing it, it was just happening – rewind, replay, rewind, replay.”
It took Young more than two years to stop listening for her husband to come home and another two years before she was really OK.
The hardest part, she said, was watching her children struggle.
“My kids were so stressed, it was scary. I felt like I was losing them; they were falling and I couldn’t hold on.”
They all helped each other, Young said.
Support also came from the Chicago Police Department. The department, Young said, has always been known to pull together and help the family – “that’s just what they do.”
This year would have been the Young’s 25th wedding anniversary, but the specific date, she no longer remembers.
“The last 10 years I haven’t celebrated [so] it’s been like wiped away from my memory – Isn’t that odd?” she asked.
“That is,” she said, answering herself.
But Young said that she realized she wasn’t alone when she met another widow who could not remember her anniversary either.
Young’s contact with widows and widowers came through Gold Star Families, a support group for the spouses and families of fallen officers. Mary Morrison was the president of Gold Star Families when she met Young at Greg’s wake. Morrison, 67, said Young was a very quiet, reserved person but was comfortable asking questions.
There are a lot of things people do not think about after the death of a spouse, Morrison said. One of the things the group does is help the family fill out hundreds of thank-you cards. They also answer the uncomfortable questions about money, pension and financial support for the children.
“It doesn’t happen overnight but it does get better,” said Morrison, whose husband was killed 20 years ago.
Young now works with Gold Star Families; she served as president for four years, a position Morrison nominated her for.
“We have to continue to reach out to the families that came after us,” Young said. “Sometimes people just need someone to talk to and tell stories about their loved ones.
Like father, like children
Young’s daughter, Rashida, 31, is now a Chicago police officer. She works in Austin, the same area her father patrolled.
“She loves her job,” Young said.
Her son, Jason, 25, is also in uniform as a Cook County sheriff’s deputy, the same job his father had when he started in law enforcement.
With her children in the shadow of their father, Young is back standing on her faith and takes every day one at a time.
“Live your life to the fullest,” she said. “Whatever you want to do, do it today.”