Friday, April 30, 2010

In Memorium

On March 21, 2010, family and friends of Joseph Taylor gathered in Salem, Massachusetts to remember Joe's life.  Below are the eulogies for this amazing man, wonderful friend, and loving father.

Eulogy for Joseph Taylor
Yosef ben Moshe v’Batya

Good afternoon!   I am Rabbi Steven Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom in Baltimore.  I am grateful to Rabbi David Meyer of Temple Emanuel for allowing me the privilege of speaking from his pulpit for a second time.  I was here four years ago to eulogize Gerry Taylor.  You must be asking yourself a question, “Why is a rabbi from Baltimore speaking about Joe?”  Allow me a few minutes to explain.

I have known Joe my entire life.  He grew up in a house on Early Street in Morristown, New Jersey, just around the corner from my grandparent’s home on Speedwell Avenue.  He and my dear uncle, Herman Rosenberg, were best friends ever since the seventh grade.  They would walk to school together, hang out on my grandmother’s porch with another future distinguished Jewish communal service professional, Morris Fine, and play basketball after school.  My uncle and Joe went to Drew University and remained staunch friends their entire lives.  Gerry and Joe and my uncle and aunt saw each other regularly.  My uncle was so proud of Joe and would often tell me about his accomplishments. 

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A Unique Man   Gloria Hochman

Back home in Philadelphia, I have a thick file stuffed with things that Joe wrote and things he told me.  I call the file simply:  Joe Taylor, An Extraordinary Man.  In a moment, I’ll share with you a couple of things from that file.

When I met Joe, I was a young mother of  two-year old daughter.  He was Executive Director of the Association for Jewish Children, a prestigious multi-service child care organization that placed some children in foster care, some in adoptive families, and ran group residences for older children who were too troubled to go into private foster homes.   

All of you have, some time in your life, had the experience of meeting someone and you just clicked instantly.  That’s the way it was with Joe and me.  I went to him looking for a job in public relations, and I was thrilled when he hired me.  I could sense that while his main job at that time was heading this agency, that he had a subterranean calling, a sensitivity, a view of life, that I came to learn, he expressed through writing, some of which all of you here have had the pleasure of reading.  But I had no idea then that this was the beginning of a friendship that would last more than four decades. 

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On Love and Marriage   Madalaine Pugliese

I decided on the topic of love and friendship for many of the reasons that we have already heard and will hear more about today. My comments address three kinds of love I think about when I think about Joe: 1) Gerry, 2) Food, and 3) Family and Friends. Thankfully Joe left his remarkable memoirs so that we can celebrate his thoughts quoting selections using some of his own words.

However, I feel uniquely qualified to talk about these topics for a very special reason. Joe and his beloved Gerry shared a wedding anniversary date with my wonderful husband Carmen and I. We loved celebrating together -- and Joe had fantastic taste in campaign! Carmen and I can only hope that our young 32-year marriage will emulate the astonishing love affair that Joe and Gerry enjoyed for 64 years.   

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Playing Tennis with the Net Down    Jean Monahan 

At the start of his short essay, “Life as a Spectator Sport”, Joe wrote: “When I retired from my working life at seventy, it felt like I was playing tennis with the net down.” Joe relished the freedom of no rules or expectations throughout his retirement, which lasted over twenty years. A sentence later he says, “(at 90) now there isn’t even  a net….and living may soon become a spectator sport”. It’s remarkable to think that Joe Taylor ever worried about being merely a spectator. Like his wife, Gerry, Joe was an engaged, thinking, active citizen, with a kaleidoscope of interests and a surge of energy for the things he cared most deeply about. 

I met Joe and Gerry 9 years ago. It was a gorgeous afternoon in June. Two weeks before, I had adopted a baby girl. I went to the Salem Athenaeum to give a poetry reading, and Gerry and Joe were among the small group sitting around the table. We connected initially because  of their interest in my adopted daughter…Joe told me he had worked  with adoption agencies during his time as Executive Director of Jewish Family Services in Philadelphia. We also connected through the poetry I shared that day. Those two threads, writing and parenting, were the hallmarks of our friendship, along with a shared zest for living.

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The Journey of Joe's Memoirs   Pic Michel

As I begin I can hear Joe suggesting I open with a powerful first line, so there you have it.  When Joe Taylor invited me to tea the day after he bought one of my paintings at an opening in Salem, I had no idea with whom I was meeting.  He seemed like a nice elderly man and he was, but within moments of sitting down I became quite aware of his quizzical and analytical nature.  He seemed to almost interview me, and I happily answered all of his questions.  Here and there, he told me a little about himself, how he recently had lost his wife, how his daughter Barb helped him enjoy his life as a writer by getting him around to give readings from his book Out of My Mind.  Joe sent me home with an autographed copy.  I thought that was nice. 

About a year later, Joe surprised me with a phone call.  He asked if I would consider collaborating with him to produce cartoons for which he would send me gag lines and descriptions that I would fulfill with illustrations.  I was curious and agreed to review some of his ideas.  That was the first of many ideas Joe proposed and shortly afterward I received the first manila envelope filled with pages of ideas for cartoons. Joe later explained he had developed the desire to cartoon 20 years earlier, it just took him awhile to find someone to do the drawing.  At first it seemed like just a little fun to me, but from the outset, it was all business to Joe.

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The Miracle of Joe   Barbara Taylor 

Good morning, good morning, we love to see you smile;
Good morning, good morning, let’s make this day worthwhile. 

For many, many years, every time I walked into his condominium, Joe would greet me heartily with this refrain and a big smile on his face. And I can’t think of a person on this earth who did make each day so worthwhile. I can’t remember exactly when he stopped this greeting, but it was not in the too far distant past. 

Joe’s entire modus operandi was to make every day productive and full of reasons to live.  He constantly planned new projects, lectures or entries for writing contests.  He kept up with his friends, by phone and in person.  He read voraciously, and attended operas and concerts whenever possible. 

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