Obituary: Elizabeth Youngue / Music education teacher, soloist and actress

March 27, 1922 - Jan. 3, 2014

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If walls could talk, those in the home where Elizabeth Youngue reigned for most of her 63 years in Pittsburgh would sing.

The long-time music educator, soloist and actress died Friday at age 91 at Forbes Hospice. She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Eugene L. Youngue Jr., one of the first black board-certified neuropsychiatrists in the country. They relocated from St. Louis in 1950.

A native of Charleston, S.C., Ms. Youngue taught music and voice in schools throughout the Pittsburgh Public Schools and in its former Centers for the Musically Talented. She gave private lessons in her home in Highland Park, acted in musical theater and performed solo shows.

"Music was her passion," said her daughter, Sharon Youngue of Virginia Beach, Va.

"If students were not in the house, she walked around the house singing, or she had the radio on and sang with it, anything from gospel to Christmas carols. She got up early in the morning and would vocalize."

In public performances, she often sang as her encore "Summertime," the signature song from the folk opera "Porgy and Bess," in which her daughter recalls she had performed in various companies.

An alto, Ms. Youngue performed in Chatham College opera workshops, with the Bach Mendelssohn Choir and the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and soloed in church choirs. She was on the board of the Pittsburgh Ballet, the Bach Mendelssohn Choir and Chatham Baroque.

She and her husband came to Pittsburgh where he went to work at the Veteran's Administration after training at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan., said their son, Eugene Youngue III, of Churchill. "He found out he liked it here."

He also played guitar in a jazz band and held jam sessions in the basement. Other musicians would drop by to join the jam, including jazz instrumentalists Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery.

"When the Mills Brothers performed in Pittsburgh, their guitar player, Norman Brown, would stay with us and he and dad would play," said Mr. Youngue. "He and dad were Army buddies."

In 2002, Elizabeth Youngue told the Post-Gazette that the musicians who jammed in her basement "liked it because I cooked beans and rice for them."

"She loved to have parties," said her son. "She would have beautiful elaborate parties. Friends referred to her as the queen because she held court."

"She was the matriarch," said her daughter. "Just to indicate what kind of person she was, she had her own obituary written 10 years ago. Even when she became ill and was at the hospital, some of her friends would call and open the conversation with, 'Well, has she reorganized the place yet?'"

The family got curious looks from their white neighbors in Highland Park in their early years here.

"The people just didn't believe we were legitimate until we lived there awhile," Elizabeth Youngue told the Post-Gazette in 2002. "Then everybody accepted us."

Remembering those days as "transitional," Sharon Youngue said of her mother, "She probably fought her share of battles and forged a lot of inroads."

Elizabeth Youngue received a bachelor of arts in music from West Virginia State College and a master's in music from the University of Michigan.

She received her Ph.D. in education administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

She served in many capacities, locally and nationally, for The Links, a network of volunteer service organizations founded in 1946. Its membership works in support of the cultures and economic survival of people of African ancestry.

She also is survived by one granddaughter.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. today at White Memorial Chapel of Point Breeze, 7204 Thomas Blvd.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Church of the Redeemer, 5700 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill.


Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626.


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