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Frank and Sandy Young at the Balloon Fiesta, ABQ, NM, October 2010. A photo of my cousin Frank Young and his lovely wife Sandy, which I took in October   2010 in Albuquerque, NM, shows them at the Annual Balloon Fiesta. What a great time we had, leaving their house at 3:45am in order to arrive in time to get a good parking spot and see everything from start to finish. This meant that the sky was still pitch black when we arrived, and we were able to see balloons being fired up and ready to launch. A long line of fast food joints at one side of the field provided some breakfast, and we headed over to the launch area.

The trip from Cerrillos to Albuquerque had taken more than an hour. Frank and Sandy have taken house guests to the balloon fiesta too many times to count, and since this was my first time there, I appreciated their

Rising before dawn at the Balloon Fiesta

generosity in treating me to this spectacular event. More than 800 balloons were launched that cool October morning, each one seemingly more colorful than the others. The sights and sounds were quite thrilling to me.

I stayed with Frank and Sandy for a week on this trip, and got to know them better. For most of my life I have not really known them, since they lived in Florida, and before that, Frank and his core family of parents and siblings lived in Washington State. All this was while I was still growing up in Maine, then marrying and starting a family. During the 1960s, travel was not considered a practical option for me. In any case, I enjoyed getting to know them and seeing some of the sights in their little town of 200 people in Santa Fe County.

At various times during the week, Frank told me about those intervening years. After five years as district manager for Jefferson Standard Insurance Company and fifteen years as a retail business owner, he opened his own construction company — Frank Young, Builder. He had a successful building career for 15 years in Pensacola, Florida.

When Frank retired, he and Sandy decided to move to New Mexico, where their daughter, Wendy, had settled after learning photography at The College of Santa Fe. They fell in love with “The Land of Enchantment.” They purchased a triple-wide modular home and installed it in the high desert outskirts of the old mining village of Cerrillos. Being an expert builder and craftsman, Frank made many alterations and additions to the home, including installing a huge cistern to collect rainwater, and a gray water system to water the garden. On one of my visits there, he was building an attached garage and patio, mostly by himself. See photo.

               Atop the roof of his garage

I tell you these things to bring continuity to Frank’s story and his extraordinary life and turn of events of this past year of 2012.

Through most of his life, Frank has held Bible study in his home and now at Wendy and Todd’s home, located on Main Street in Cerrillos. Early Sunday mornings a dozen or so friends and neighbors, affectionately called the Renegade Bible Study, gather for breakfast and Bible. Sitting on chairs and couches, drinking coffee and noching on Sandy’s homemade southern biscuits – yum – and other goodies that friends bring in, everyone gets to read and discuss a Bible passage. Friendships are formed, and sometimes newcomers come in and experience the Word for the first time. Grandson Jackson and other “small people” are always there too.

                   Main Street, Cerrillos

These two people have always been each others’ best friend and supporter. They celebrated their 50th anniversary last December with a hundred or so of their best friends. They are known for their noisy, happy, musical gatherings. But I digress. What I want to say is that this decision was probably made by both of them, although we have not discussed that matter. All I know is, they are a very close couple who make their decisions together, and undoubtedly with the Lord.

Jackson making biscuits with Grammy

They have been members of the Rodeo Road Baptist Church in Santa Fe for the few years they have lived in New Mexico. Other than that, Frank tells me that there is no non-Catholic church in their vicinity. Frank and Sandy have always been Baptists, and he was licensed back in 1961 as a minister. That was when he was Youth Pastor and Activities Director, which I mentioned before.

Frank felt the call from God to start a church and to become an ordained Baptist minister. When I asked him which came first, he said, “It’s all part of the process.” A church study  found that there are 1,080 people within a 6-mile radius of his house, and of those, 80% are church minded. This was enough to tell Frank and his sponsoring church (the Rodeo Road Baptist) that they could fulfill their vision of planting a church in this tiny village of dirt streets and adobe buildings. And it would be Frank’s job to do this. As he told me, he did not need to be paid, and there was no way to ascertain how many people would show up or how well the endeavor would be funded.

Frank’s success in business gave him the experience and skills to lock in all the permissions, licenses, funding opportunities, and paperwork to accomplish the legal and practical necessities. Without going into all the details, the church is incorporated with the State of New Mexico. Their meeting place is at the State Park building within the tiny village. The Cerrillos State Park is a piece of land of about 3,000 acres located in the hills above the village. It contains old mines and other artifacts of its mining past. A requirement of the State is that a building be located within the park that is suitable as a meeting place and that can be rented for events.  For a nominal fee, this little church can hold its worship services. The meeting room only holds 35 people, but there are double glass doors opening to a patio, where an overflow of any number can gather.

If the first Sunday, June 3rd, is any indication, the church will be utilizing the overflow patio every Sunday. Their attendance went from 12 Bible study souls to 32 church attendees. Their meeting place — the Centennial Room — is 20′ by 40′, including a kitchen area, giving them lots of space for Bible Study, fellowship (including refreshments), and worship. His first sermon was entitled “New Beginnings.” How very appropriate.

The ultimate goal is to get this church on its feet, with Frank at the helm, then hire a minister once it is established. As Frank said, he doesn’t want to do this forever. When I reminded him of his 79th birthday coming up in September, he reminded me to read about Moses, who was 80 when he discovered the burning bush and then took thousands of God’s people out into the desert for 40 years.  I asked him if he would be taking people into the desert of New Mexico, and he laughed and said no. Frank loves to quote scripture to make a point. He is a born teacher and preacher, although he might deny that.

I am so proud that he is my cousin, an extraordinary life of building homes and saving souls, from Frank Young, Builder to Frank Young, Pastor.

Cerrillos Community Church becomes a reality


Other things you should know about Frank and Sandy

  • They had two children: Wendy married Todd Yocham, and have a son named Jackson, now 7, and a daughter, Corey, a college student and traveler.
  • Their son, Jay, a talented musician, died at age 21 from a congenital heart condition. They celebrate his life every year on his birthday, and at other times too.
  • They “adopted” two exchange students, now career women, and considered part of the family. Irina has married, lives in Arizona, and has a new baby boy; Andrea lives in Croatia and runs a travel agency. All visit and see each other just like any other family.
  • Frank has three brothers, Sam, Jim, and Bob; and a sister, Sally.
  • Frank is a talented potter. He has his own kiln and has created many art pieces as well as their family stoneware that they use every day.
  • Sandy still works as a writer and editor; she edited my book as well as another family book. She also is a part time sales person for a school book publisher, and travels throughout the region and beyond doing presentations.
  • Sandy is a fine cook, especially when it comes to cookies and southern biscuits and other southern fare. Frank also does his share with a smoker and a grill.
  • Frank usually wears a cowboy hat. It suits him very well.
  • Cerrillos village and the hills above have often been the site of movie sets, as they have retained the Old West characteristics.

            Modern Cowboy, Cerrillos, NM

     Frank and Maizey feeding the coyotes