Published May 23, 2022
Pearl Young was among the 10 people who lost their lives in the mass shooting at Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, but her life was so much more than what happened on that afternoon of May 14.
Young was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was a devout Christian and churchgoer. She taught Sunday school and, at the age of 77, was still substitute teaching in Buffalo Public Schools.
She also was a UB alumna.
While in her mid-30s raising three children, Young graduated from UB in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences. Her focus was gerontology and after graduating went on to work with the elderly, said her daughter, Pamela Pritchett.
“She was just really happy she went back to college late in life,” Pritchett said. “For her, that was a really big accomplishment.”
The college commitment required her to take her young daughter to class with her on occasion, an experience that left an indelible mark.
“I loved those times with my mother,” Pritchett said.
In fact, it inspired Pritchett to graduate college someday, too. And she did — following in her mother’s footsteps at UB, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1994.
During this weekend’s commencement ceremonies, UB recognized Young and the nine others who lost their lives in the mass shooting.
“While commencement is traditionally a time of great celebration for our university community, this year it was important to all of us to acknowledge our heavy hearts — to pause and remember our dear neighbors lost in this horrific act of violence,” said President Satish K. Tripathi.
“Pearl Young led a productive, meaningful and truly admirable life, working with the elderly, teaching the next generation and using her UB degree for its highest purpose — to serve others,” he said. “This is what we hope for all our UB graduates, so we want them to know who Pearl Young was, and how she lived her life.”
Pritchett said her mother would be proud that her alma mater would want to tell her story.
Born and raised in Fayette, Ala., Young was one of five siblings. She would move to New Haven, Conn., where she was introduced to Oliver Young Jr. The two would marry and settle in Buffalo, where they raised three children together — James, Pamela and Damon — before her husband’s death in 2013.
Young attended Good Samaritan Church of God in Christ in Cheektowaga, where she enjoyed serving and teaching Sunday School.
She was sociable and liked to get out, whether for Sunday dinner with her friends from church or trips to Macy’s to hunt for bargains. She was fashionable and her closet was filled with clothing of all colors for just the right occasion.
For the past 20 years, Young was a substitute teacher at schools in Buffalo, including Burgard High School and, more recently, Emerson School of Hospitality. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she became savvier on the computer so she could engage with the students forced to learn online from home.
“At 77 she was still working,” Pritchett said. “She didn’t let age stop her.”