tampabay.com

Many shocked by woman's death

By THOMAS LAKE
Published April 18, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - Donna Young played bingo and fought her disease and lived alone in a house with tiki torches on the patio. When she turned up dead there Tuesday morning, authorities called it suspicious.

She was 52. Her adult son found her just before noon on Hathaway Drive in the Oaks at River Ridge, and by 1 p.m. the house was blockaded with yellow crime-scene tape.

It was hard to know why.

"There are some elements of this investigation that need to be investigated," sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said as he stood before the television cameras. He would not comment on a cause of death, or whether there was a burglary.

Young worked at Parkwood Oxygen & Medical Equipment in Port Richey. She suffered from an advanced case of multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis.

Even as the disease forced her to rely on a walker and a wheelchair, she remained defiant. She worked out at the gym three times a week. She insisted on loading the wheelchair into the car herself.

"She was extremely talented," Parkwood owner Jim Vincent said. "Everybody is just devastated."

Young rarely missed a neighborhood board meeting. She loved her neighbors and they loved her. When a tornado uprooted a tree by her house a few years ago, they showed up with chain saws and dump trucks to haul it away.

Young's son, Ryan, lived with her until about a year ago, when he got married, family friend Shelagh Ricardo said. It was an outdoor wedding on a breezy day at Seven Springs Golf & Country Club. Young wanted to walk down the aisle - nothing else would do.

"There's no way I'm going down in a walker or a wheelchair," she said, as Ricardo remembered it.

So Young did walk, with help from the two best men. She leaned on them as she approached the front, driven to reach her son, and by the time she did, the guests were in tears.

Now it was Tuesday, a cool spring afternoon, hours after her son found her. He slumped against a sheriff's cruiser, wiping his eyes and smoking a Marlboro. He got up and walked around. He received many hugs and soft-spoken condolences.

"You okay, buddy?" Ricardo asked.

"No," he said.

Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.