Widely known in this area as a man of the people, S.C. Rep. Ronnie Young (R-Clearwater) had a passion for serving Aiken County and the State of South Carolina.

Two days before his death at his Horse Creek Valley home early Sunday morning, Young, 71, received the Order of the Palmetto, which is the state’s highest civilian honor.

Young was the longest serving Aiken County Council chairman in history.

His tenure began in 1994 and continued until 2017.

In May of that year, Young won a special election for the S.C. House of Representatives’ District 84 seat following Chris Corley’s resignation and was sworn in early the next month.

In 2018, Young was re-elected.

“Public service is a high calling, and he untiringly fulfilled that calling with integrity and determination,” said County Administrator Clay Killian.

LaWana McKenzie was on County Council with Young and was among the vice chairmen during his time at the panel's helm.

She also was a longtime friend to Young.

“Ronnie always was Ronnie,” she said. “He didn’t put on airs. It didn’t matter if you held some high position or were just someone he knew from his neighborhood, Ronnie was always the same. He never forgot where he came from. He was always one of the Valley boys.”

McKenzie also described Young as “a guy who cared and worked so hard."

“Many people didn’t realize how many hours he put in,” she continued. “It wasn’t just go to the meetings and go home. He was constantly trying to find out more about problems and ways to solve them.”

Young battled cancer and other health challenges.

When S.C. Rep. Jay Lucas (R-Darlington), who is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, presented him the Order of the Palmetto, Young was lying in a hospital-style bed in his living room.

He was the vice chairman of the House’s Education and Public Works Committee, and Lucas praised him for his efforts in crafting an education reform bill.

Lucas also called Young an “uplifting” presence in the House.

“He makes us all feel better,” Lucas said.

In a Twitter message posted Sunday, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster wrote: “Aiken County has lost one of its most loyal and beloved public servants. Representative Ronnie Young’s mortal body could not keep pace with his indomitable spirit and tireless service.”

Sen. Tom Young remembered Young for his ability to guide and unite his fellow elected officials.

“He was a quiet leader,” Young said. “He was very effective in working things out behind the scenes and building a consensus on issues. Then everyone would come together in public with a path forward.”

County Council Vice Chairman Andrew Siders, who served as interim chairman after Ronnie Young was elected to the House, expressed a similar sentiment.

“He would say just enough to get his point across and would listen more than he spoke,” Siders said. “He always was a source of advice and information. Ronnie not only was my mentor, he was my friend.”

In addition, Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon benefited from Young’s guidance while he was a County Council member and serving as a vice chairman.

“He (Young) taught me to value every person’s opinion and to have the whole story before making a decision,” Osbon said.

As County Council chairman, Young focused on economic development and the improvement of county facilities.

“He established the Sage Mill Industrial Park and helped bring in the various industries located there,” Gary Bunker said. “The Bridgestone expansion, which he helped advance, was at the time the largest single industrial investment in South Carolina history.”

For several years, Bunker was Young’s vice chairman on County Council and won a special election to succeed him as chairman in October 2017.

“He supported the Carrol H. Warner Savannah River Research Campus,” Bunker said. “He helped found the Three Rivers Solid Waste Authority. He championed park expansion, including the acquisition of Boyd Pond Park and the ongoing work at Langley Pond. He helped rebuild much of Aiken County's capital plant, including the new Detention Center, the new Government Complex, the new Animal Shelter and the Judicial Center expansion.”

Young also served on the Aiken County School Board.

To S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, the little things Young did meant a lot.

“He will be remembered for his personal touches,” Taylor said. “For example, he loved baking and was a master in creating delicious desserts and sharing them with friends and colleagues in county government and the State House.”

McKenzie also enjoyed eating Young’s sweet treats along with his pimento cheese and chicken salad.

“His banana pudding was to die for,” she said. “He also could make wonderful cakes. They were so moist, and he took so much pride in them being level. He didn’t ever come in with any lopsided cakes.”

The funeral service for Young will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Christian Heritage Church at 285 Ascauga Lake Road in Graniteville.

His family will receive friends from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m at the church Thursday.

"Ronnie's strength was his beautiful wife, Susan," Osbon said. "They supported one another and made up an incredible team."

​Dede Biles is the Aiken County government, business and horse industry reporter for the Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @DBethBiles.