Marcena 'Marty' Crowl Taylor
Arts enthusiast, restaurateur, and long-time Fairfield resident Marcena “Marty” Crowl Taylor died Monday, March 11, 2013, of natural causes, according to family members.
Many friends and neighbors – and she regarded anyone she met as fitting into those categories – recall Marty as a strong supporter of the arts, an avid reader, and an enthusiastic traveler, especially in the company of her family, on such expeditions as a 1997 trip to Ireland with husband Jack and daughter Ann, an Outer Banks vacation known in the family as “Taylor Tour 2000,” and a 2007 shipboard and overland tour of Alaska.
The child of restaurant owners, Marty had and honed a gift for hospitality and congeniality evident to all. She worked a room like a candidate on primary day, genially introducing herself, and establishing common ground with new friends whom she then introduced to other friends, new and old. It was not unusual see Marty at a reception or party weave among the other guests and by the end she would have stitched all present into a web of connection.
Marcena Crowl was born April 29, 1929, in Monmouth, Illinois, the only child of Clark S. “Pat” Crowl and Esther Taylor Crowl. When their daughter was in third grade the Taylors moved to Rock Island, Illinois, where Esther worked at the Rock Island Arsenal and Pat worked for John Deere.
In 1945, after Marcena’s sophomore year in high school, the family moved to Fairfield, Iowa. Pat had grown up in nearby Trenton, and he and Esther wanted their daughter to have a similar small-town experience. In addition, Pat’s brother, known as Uncle Doc, owned the Alley Inn on Adams Street, a horseshoe court behind a block now home to a senior citizen center.
The front area of the Alley Inn was a grocery store, the back a restaurant with a five-stool counter and a few booths. Pat and Esther Crowl bought and ran the Alley Inn until 1947 when they opened the Broadway Grill with 10 counter seats and four four-person booths.
Soon after arriving in Fairfield, Marcena was dubbed “Marty” (among intimates, “Martay”), the nickname by which she would be known ever after.
She spent part of each summer visiting her favorite uncle, Everett Crowl, of New York, New York. Mr. Crowl doted on his niece and made sure her stays included expeditions to Gotham’s department stores and rides in Central Park on Mr. Crowl’s horse, Silver, the first in a series of white stallions by that name to appear in stage and television productions featuring the Lone Ranger, a popular cowboy hero.
Marty graduated from Fairfield High School in 1947 and enrolled at Parsons College in Fairfield, majoring in English and graduating in 1951 with a Bachelor of Arts.
She met fellow student John W. “Jack” Taylor in a student commons at Parsons when he and one of Marty’s sisters from Alpha Gamma Delta were deep in conversation. An unwritten sorority rule stipulated that members did not need to ask to take a cigarettefrom another’s pack. Seeing the other Alpha Gam’s smokes, Marty shook one out of the pack, prompting Jack to ask whose cigarettes she thought they were. Introductions followed, after which Marty organized a sorority-wide turnabout dance, inviting her new acquaintance to be her date. That evening, she hid her car in hopes that he would walk her home. He did, and they married on December 3, 1951.
After a honeymoon at the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon, Jack entered the Army to serve during the Korean War. Marty briefly remained in Fairfield, and then moved to Texas, where she found the insects noxious and could not find a job paying more than fifty cents an hour. At her Uncle Rex’s suggestion, she lit out for California, moving in with friends and staying until she heard a neighbor was driving to the East Coast. She caught a ride as far as Fairfield, to her parents’ delight, and joined the staff at the Grill.
After Jack mustered out, he and Marty moved to Philadelphia, Pa., taking up residence in Haverford. Marty managed inventory at CertainTeed Products Co.’s 13 Pennsylvania offices. Jack went to work for Globe Ticket Company in Philadelphia.
In 1955 Globe promoted Jack to regional manager for Michigan and parts of Ohio and Indiana. The Taylors moved to Detroit, where Marty gave birth to children John and Ann.
In 1959 the Taylors, wanting to raise their growing family in a small town, returned to Fairfield, where sons Todd and Paul were born. Marty, by now a food-service veteran, and Jack, who had worked in restaurants during college, leased and managed Fairfield Golf & Country Club, the oldest golf club west of the Mississippi River. Marty happily embraced the role of social organizer, over the years arranging events at the Club such as a much-beloved annual Beaux Arts ball whose centerpiece one year – Marty’s favorite -- was a bulletin-board display of letters from celebrities such as aviation mogul and notorious recluse Howard Hughes declining invitations to be the ball’s guest of honor.
Marty also helped the Grill became a local sensation when Pat’s friend Ed Ahrens found a used commercial meat slicer priced at $40 that he called to Pat’s attention. At Marty’s urging, Pat bought the machine, allowing the Crowls to bring the good news of thin-sliced roast beef, turkey, and ham sandwiches, such as Jack and Marty had enjoyed in Philadelphia, to Fairfield.
Asked what to charge for these new delicacies, Marty said, “Seventy-five cents,” to which her father replied, “Hey, this isn’t the Country Club!” and set the price at fifty cents. The next day a block-long line of Parsons College students formed outside the Broadway, causing Pat to decide that perhaps his daughter’s original estimate had been on the money.
At the Club, Marty and Jack often hosted entertainers and musicians appearing at Parsons College during the school year and in summer stock productions on the college stage. Guests included jazzman Louis Armstrong, Stan Kenton and band, singer-comedians the Smothers Brothers, actor Orson Bean, and other performers.
In 1968, with her parents wanting to slow down, Marty took over the Broadway Grill. A year later, Jack joined her there, and they ran the family restaurant until 1983, when they closed the Grill and opened Taylor’s Off Broadway Grill, which the couple built out from a derelict building at 111 North Court Street. Jack and Marty operated the much-celebrated Off Broadway until they retired in 1999. Jack Taylor died in 2012.
Marty was a long time member of the Jefferson County Health Center Auxiliary; P.E.O. Chapter MB; the Fairfield Golf & Country Club; and the Fairfield Art Association.
Memorials have been established for St. Mary Stained Glass Window Fund, 3100 W. Madison, Fairfield, IA 52556; and Way Off Broadway, PO Box 2454 Fairfield Iowa 52556.
Marty Taylor is survived by children John William Taylor, Jr. and wife Diane of Green Bay, Wisconsin; Ann Taylor of Washington, D.C.; Todd Patrick Taylor and wife Mary Jo of Norfolk, Virginia; and Paul Michael Taylor and wife Kimberly of Washington, D.C., as well as grandchildren Meghan Van Iten and husband Adam, of Menasha, Wisconsin; Brittany Taylor, of Washington, D.C.; Lindsay Taylor, of Chicago, Illinois; Brendan Taylor, of Honolulu, Hawaii; Megan Hurdle, of Norfolk, Virginia, and Charles “Charlie” Taylor and Ryan Taylor, of Washington, D.C. Jack and Marty’s “adopted children” include Mel and Patty Allen and Ray and Roseann Karbacka of Fairfield, Iowa.
Visitation will be 6-8 p.m. Sunday, March 17, at St. Mary Catholic Church, 5100 W. Madison, Fairfield, Iowa. Rosary will be recited at 8 p.m.
A Mass of Christian Burial will take place Monday, March 18, 11:00AM at the church.
Memorials may be made to St. Mary Catholic Church Stained Glass Window Fund or Way Off Broadway. Cards and memorials can be sent to: Ann Taylor, 1367 “F” Street N.E. Washington, DC 20002-5419.
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