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Younis shares life’s struggles, successes at ‘Storied Evenings’

By Staff | Jul 29, 2011

Lisa Younis speaks at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Meeting House's ‘Storied Evenings’ event last Wednesday. "Storied Evenings" is an annual event held each summer. (Chronicle photo by Kelly Cambrel)

The Rev. Randy Tremba of the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church told attendees the shortest distance between two people is a story as he kicked off this summer’s third “Storied Evening” event held at the Presbyterian meeting house the evening of July 20.

The evening’s tale, as told by local resident Lisa Younis, recounted her family’s journey from Japan to south-central West Virginia, as she discussed how her upbringing inspired the charitable work she has done in Shepherdstown.

Younis is a professional nurse and mother of two, known among members of the community for the multitude of interests and causes she patrons.

Younis has sat on the board of numerous local organizations, including the Contemporary American Theater Festival, Cress Creek Golf Club, the West Virginia Human Rights Commission, BB&T Bank board, the West Virginia Women’s Commission and is credited as the founder of Shepherdstown’s arts, crafts and music festival, Street Fest.

Originally from Summersville, W.Va., in Nicholas County, Younis grew up in an area where the second generation Japanese-American always stood out.

“We were practically the only minorities in the county,” Younis said.

Younis described having to confront occasional intolerance from those around her.

“We’d hear ‘Jap’, ” she said.

But Younis said her parents taught her to ignore the prejudices of others and focus on making the most of herself.

Younis recalled learning how to drive at age 13 and described a household where hard work and competence were exalted.

She referred to her mom as a “tiger mother” who inspired a competitive love of golf and taught Younis about traditional social graces, like thank you notes and party hosting.

A self-declared “nerd” who got straight A’s in school, Younis decided she wanted to be a doctor at the age of 17 following the untimely death of her father.

Younis attended West Virginia University with a full scholarship but admitted with humor that she was “better at pool than chemistry,” ultimately graduating with bachelor’s degree in nursing.

After a stint in Pittsburgh, where Younis said she most notably repaired the injured foot of television children’s host Mr. Rogers, Younis and her husband decided to return to West Virginia for good. The family settled in Falling Waters in 1998 before finding a home in Shepherdstown after the birth of their second child.

Embracing the Eastern Panhandle, Younis began volunteering around the community soon after becoming a resident and said she’ll continue to work on behalf of the community and state she loves.

Younis spoke as part of the 8th annual Storied Evening series,

The event included music by Jazz Duo Kurtis Adams and Mark Cook.

The series also featured the artwork of local resident, Mike Austin, which hung in the Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall throughout the month of July.

Committed to promoting an active, socially conscious and happy lifestyle, Younis concluded her speech with some advice she’s found useful.

“Make your own fun,” she said.