There will never be another Jack Taylor
Since his death on Monday, my mind has been consumed thinking about my pal Jack Taylor.
I don’t remember not knowing Jack Taylor. I think to grow up in Fairfield meant you knew Jack, or at the very least, knew of him.
My Ledger career dates back to 1980 or so when I was a newspaper carrier on my own block. Back in the day, when the Fairfield Ledger was still printing six days a week, we carriers had to come to the Ledger to pay our bills and pick up our papers every Saturday. I don’t know that my best friend, Joy Funkhouser, or I ever picked up our papers without also picking up a cheeseburger, fries, cherry coke – oh, okay, and a chocolate malt – from the Broadway Grill. Jack – known to me then as “Paul Taylor’s dad” – always teased us and pretended that the whole mess of carriers hanging out in the grill were a menace to him; nobody ever bought it.
It was later in my Ledger career that I came to really know Jack. I was a young mother who had just gone back to work after several years of being a stay-at-home mom to my four children. I’d not yet found my niche in life nor had I had the time or opportunity to build any semblance of a career. I had no self-confidence, and I certainly had no faith in my ability to write for a newspaper. In fact, a year into my employment, I would still lie on my bed at night and wonder why Jeff hired me.
Almost every day, just before the paper went to bed, I would call over to the Off Broadway Grill to order one of Jack’s infamous chicken salad sandwiches, onion rings, and a side of ranch dressing so that it would be ready for pick up when the paper came off the press. One day, not long after I started writing, Jack came out of the kitchen, handed me my sack and told me that Jeff had made a solid hire in me and that he was enjoying my work.
“You’re going places, kid,” he told me.
I cried on the way back to the Ledger, clutching my sack of chicken salad and onion rings. It’s possible that Jack had no idea how badly I needed his affirmation, or knowing Jack, maybe he did. Either way, a kinship was formed.
You didn’t have to be a “regular” for long for Jack to know what you wanted even before you ordered it. It was only a week or so after he told me that I was going places that I called over and ordered the usual chicken salad sandwich on white toast. Before I could finish, Jack said flatly into the phone, “I suppose you’re going to want onion rings with that.” I laughed, and it didn’t surprise me when I returned to the paper, opened my sack, and found a little cup of ranch dressing, as well.
When I told Jack and his wife Marty that I wanted to finish college and get my teaching degree, they were two of my staunchest supporters. Jack told me I would never regret getting an education. Education, he said, is a good thing. He then told me with smiling eyes that just because I was going back to college, I shouldn’t assume that I was off the hook because he was still furious that I was leaving the paper.
“Don’t ever stop writing, kid,” he said.
It was an honor to write his obituary.
“Memories are what hold us together,” a friend of Jack’s wrote on Facebook this week. When a community loses an icon like Jack Taylor, that’s especially true. It’s been only the sharing of memories and stories of Jack that has taken the sting out of this immense loss. Through our reminiscing, even as early as Monday evening, a celebration of Jack’s life had begun.
There’s not enough space in this paper to recount all of the memories of Jack shared among friends and family this week, but there are common themes. People will remember his quick wit, wicked sense of humor, and great smile. In descriptions of Jack as a man, adjectives like magnificent, wise, wonderful, and fine are used innumerably. “Welcoming” is another word used repetitively to describe both Jack and Marty. Scores of us called him friend. Many, at one time or another, called him boss. A group of young men who attended Parson’s College and formed the social organization Where The Boys Are called him Bufoonsky. Some called him a surrogate parent. The people who will miss him most called him husband, dad, grandpa, brother and uncle.
To know Jack was to be impacted by him, and our collective memories illustrate the profound effect he had on us. Many of our memories are funny ones. A lot of them are deeply personal remembrances of Jack’s altruism and generous spirit. But there’s one thing everyone agrees on: there will never be another prime rib or medium-rare steak like Jack’s.
That’s because there will never be another Jack Taylor.