Nature 28

Susan Young

1927 ~ 2019 (age 92)


Susan Badgley Young, 92, of Carlsbad, New Mexico, passed away peacefully on Saturday, June 8, 2019. Susan was a bright, compassionate, and vivacious woman who will be dearly missed by friends and family.

Susan was born in Slaton, Texas in 1927. As an only child, she was doted on by her parents, both of whom worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. They traveled and moved around the country frequently, but Susan spent her high school years in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  

Following high school, she attended University of Kansas (Lawrence, Kansas), Highlands University (Las Vegas, New Mexico), and Washburn University (Topeka, Kansas). At Washburn, she met the love of her life, Frank Young, and they married and moved to Chicago so he could attend Northwestern University.

Susan loved being a wife to Frank and a mother to her two sons, Don and Ben, who were raised in Topeka, Kansas before the family relocated to Wilmette, Illinois. She shared many fond memories of life as a homemaker, family camping trips, and vacations to the Jersey Shore.

After her children were grown, Susan’s passion for volunteering merged with her passion for wildlife when she became a docent at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois. Susan spent 17 years as a docent and five years as Volunteer Coordinator. Susan is pictured here holding a baby gorilla during her time at Lincoln Park. She built lasting friendships with docents from zoos around the world at the annual conference of the Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents.

After her husband, Frank, passed away in 1991, Susan carried out their dream of retiring in New Mexico. She moved to Carlsbad in 1994 with the vision of starting an educational program at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. Susan built the docent program at Living Desert, inspiring members of the community to share in her passion, and she was instrumental in helping the Park attain accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2002.

Susan spent 18 years as Docent Coordinator at Living Desert, organizing docent training and mentoring her fellow volunteers. She launched an annual Zoo Camp, led Preschool Storytime with her fellow docents, and wrote and illustrated several books about Maggie the Bear and other animals in the Park. She was honored for her contributions at the annual Mescal Roast in 2007.

Susan touched thousands of lives as a volunteer, and she was very proud of the legacy she left. Beyond volunteering and wildlife, Susan loved swimming, reading, her cats, crafts, and spending time with her grandchildren.

Susan was preceded in death by her parents, Thelma and Donald Badgley, her husband, Benjamin Franklin Young, Jr., and two sons, Donald Badgley Young and Benjamin Franklin Young III. She is survived by her step-daughter, Cassandra “Sandi” Johnsen, and four grandchildren: Heather Coldsmith Young, Llewelyn Chapdelaine, Zachary Donald Young, and Cameron Young.

A celebration of Susan’s life will be held at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Carlsbad, New Mexico on Monday, June 17 at 11am. We know Susan would encourage you to tour the park beforehand!

In lieu of flowers, Susan and family request that memorial donations may be made to Friends of the Living Desert, in care of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, P.O Box 100, Carlsbad, NM 88221. Condolences may be expressed at

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