Whenever there’s a big occurrence in Franklin Square, there’s one man who’s sure to be in the middle of it. William “Bill” Youngfert, 72, might be found protesting a proposal for a second 7-Eleven on Tulip Avenue, fighting to keep a three-story storage facility off Hempstead Turnpike or helping start up the Franklin Square Civic Association in 2016. Through it all, he has been a central figure in the community.
After years serving the Franklin Square community, Youngfert was recently recognized by the Central Nassau County Rotary Club as the group’s honoree at its 2019 Community Foundation Dinner.
About 150 people packed the Pompeii restaurant in West Hempstead, including family members and friends who drove from out of state, to celebrate Youngfert’s legacy. Rony Kessler, of the CNCRC, said it made sense that the group’s largest dinner ever would revolve around Youngfert.
“Bill exemplifies our motto, ‘Service above self,’” Kessler said. “ Not to take away from our previous honorees, but we’ve never sold out of tickets two weeks before the event like we have now.”
Youngfert, who was born in New Hampshire, spent his youth in Brooklyn. He attended community college before moving on to New York University, where he studied industrial arts. It was the 1960s. Youngfert loved the city and was passionate about technology. He thought he would spend his life in the city. That changed, however, when he met his future wife, Nancy, and they settled in her hometown of Franklin Square in the late ’60s.
Although the suburbs were a drastic change from the city, Bill was comforted by the intimate, small-town feel of the community that he now called home. While Nancy taught home economics at North Shore High School, Bill also pursued a career in teaching, spending 35 years as a technology teacher in the Herricks School District. And, in a sense, the couple acted as teachers to their Franklin Square neighbors.
“Between my home-ec knowledge and Bill’s tech knowledge, we were like the couple who knew everything around the house, and people would always come to us for help when something wasn’t working,” Nancy said. “And whenever he sees something that needs to be done, Bill’s always the one that’s got to do it.”
This was proven true when Bill decided to join the Franklin Square Public Library board of trustees one day in 2002. As he was nearing retirement, he explained, he wanted to get more involved in his community and decided to attend a library meeting. As it happened, the board needed to fill a vacancy. Bill still serves as a library trustee.
Whenever anyone needed help in the community, Bill would often be there to lend a hand. He was on the board of trustees at the Nassau County Educators Federal Credit Union. In 2008, he joined Nancy at the Nassau County Cornell Cooperative Extension, where he built dozens of planting beds for Nancy’s gardens at the East Meadow farm. A year later, he used his tech skills to build and maintain the Franklin Square Chamber of Commerce website, for which he is the webmaster and fourth vice president.
“Because of my work with the Chamber of Commerce, every time I walked into a store or business, the owners would recognize me and greet me by my first name, and I would know their name,” Bill said. “Even though there’s more than 20,000 living in Franklin Square, there’s a small-town feeling here.”
In 2014, Bill and Nancy joined 12 other Franklin Square residents who wanted to take charge of the community and help nurture Franklin Square’s traditions and culture. After two years of extensive community meetings and paperwork to file for nonprofit status, the Franklin Square Civic Association was born. With Bill eventually serving as the president, following Christy McKenna, and Nancy as treasurer, the group organized beautification efforts, festivals, street fairs, fundraisers and other events throughout the community.
One of Bill and Nancy’s favorite FSCA events is the annual Fall Festival. Last year, residents volunteered to run booths and games, local restaurants donated food, and the Franklin Square Historical Society temporarily opened its building at Rath Park for community use. Parents of Girl Scouts also drove through the festival with decorated cars for a “Trunk-or-Treat” event, handing out candy to kids.
“It was a lot of fun to see everyone enjoying themselves in an event we made for our community,” Bill said.
Bill and Nancy stepped down from the civic group’s board of trustees earlier this year. As summer approaches, they plan to do some long-awaited traveling to pick up seashells in Florida, collect rare agates by Lake Superior and vacation on Canada’s Prince Edward Island. Although Nancy said she looks forward to rest and relaxation, she said she knows Bill will not stay still for long, as he’ll probably find something or someone else that needs his help when they get back, and she’ll gladly join him.
At the Rotary dinner, Nassau County Legislator Vincent Muscarella smiled at Bill and Nancy, a couple whom he has known for years as an elected leader. “You don’t go very far in this Franklin Square without running into Bill and Nancy,” he said. “He and Nancy, those two, are what make the community special.”