Lonn Taylor’s Eulogy

This eulogy was delivered by Dedie Taylor, Lonn’s wife, at the service held on August 15 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marfa.

During the AIDS crisis in the 1980s Lonn and I ushered at over 100 funerals, some lasting as long as four hours. We landed up angry at the deceased. We agreed then that whichever of us died first the survivor would give the only eulogy at the memorial service. Which is why I am speaking to you today.

After this service is over there will be a lunch buffet at the Paisano Hotel, an easy walk from here. The sheriff knows we will be parading over there.

Many of you knew and loved Lonn longer than the 35 years I shared with him. I am not going to try to tell you all of his story. I am going to share some of what I know.

Lonn Wood Taylor was one of the best loved men on the planet. And you know why? Because he loved you. Each and every one of you. Vicki Barge told me recently, “You know, Dedie, everyone thinks they own a piece of Lonn.” And you do. Your own special, unique piece.

Lonn knew he lived a privileged extraordinary life. Because he was loved every minute of it, from his birth until this minute and forever. He never took it for granted but it gave him a confidence that never left him.

Lonn was a fifth-generation Texan. His folks got to San Augustine in 1830. And I made him join the Sons of the Republic of Texas. He joined the San Augustine chapter so he would not have to go to meetings. Despite those roots, Lonn was actually born in South Carolina, where his father was a highway engineer with the federal Bureau of Public Roads.

It was January 22, 1940 and the worst snowstorm in Spartanburg’s history had brought the town to a standstill. Clason, Lonn’s father, hitched a ride on a milk wagon to go see his wife and new and only child in the hospital.

Lonn went home not only to his parents, but to his Grandmother Taylor, and Fanny, his beloved nurse. Lonn’s dad delighted in telling the story of a conversation he overheard between two neighbor women. One said, “That Taylor baby is the happiest child I have ever seen.” The other replied, “Why shouldn’t he be? He has four adults ready to give him whatever he wants .”

And his life went on in that vein. As soon as he could speak coherently Lonn’s parents realized they had a special child on their hands. He early demonstrated the naive curiosity that lasted all of his life. His parents sought counsel from his pediatrician who wisely told them that Lonn needed intellectual stimulation. So began the adventure his life became. They read to him, took him on nature walks, introduced him to the theater (he saw Lunt and Fontanne when he was five), took him to concerts, to museums, art galleries, magic shops (he loved magic shops), fishing, taught him to shoot when he could barely hold a gun (he was a very good shot), played and discussed classical music with him, took him to football games, and allowed him to read anything he wanted, which was pretty much everything. When he was eight he gave a book report on the Adventures of General Marbeau, about a Napoleonic General. The teacher didn’t believe he had read the book but thought he had perhaps seen a movie and sent a note to his parents. Of course, he had read the book.

After living in South Carolina and Virginia with vacations in Texas, the Taylors moved to Manila when Lonn was seven. His dad flew ahead but Lonn, his mother, and grandmother went by train to San Francisco to board the California Bear. The first day in San Francisco a hired car and driver took them sightseeing. But then a dock strike delayed their departure by a month. At the end of that time they were walking everywhere and counting their pennies.

That first voyage to Manila took 27 days. It hooked Lonn for life. He was a great sailor and explored every inch of the ship. Last September he and I were on a cruise in the Gulf of St. Lawrence when we hit a terrific storm. Lonn and I were among the few who loved it.

Which brings us to the heart of the Lonn Taylor we all knew and loved. He truly lived and loved every minute of his life, even the hard parts. And he loved each of you. Lonn was one of those fortunate people who need other people. So am I. We married when Lonn was 48 and I was 41. We both knew that we could not be everything to each other. We had interests the other did not share. But we made a pact that served us well in our years together: We did not criticize each other to anyone but each other, and never in public. In private we went at it hammer and tong and were both better people for it.

Lonn needed his friends. He loved his lunches and conversations with them. You cannot believe the number of times some well meaning busybody told me they had seen him having lunch with an attractive woman, some very young. They were shocked when my response was, “Yes, isn’t it wonderful?” All of you energized him. He came home from lunches, talks over coffee in Marfa or Alpine, happy and ready to get on with the project of the moment. Thank you to all of you who shared those parts of his life.

Lonn died when life was ceasing to be fun. He was in pain but adamantly refused to go to the hospital. He rallied when the Brights came to have drinks with us at 5:00. Two hours later he died in my arms. At home.

It was the way he wanted to go. He had finished his memoir of growing up in Manila, he had published 10 books he was proud of, he had traveled a great deal, and had laughed with and loved all his friends. In the past weeks I have received hundreds of letters and notes. Last week, John, a former neighbor who still lives in the Dresden in DC where Lonn and I met in 1984 wrote,  “I’m sure the memory of such a good, generous man must be a source of strength and consolation in your sadness.” And it is. That and the memory Lonn’s laughter. And love, for all of us.