July 7, 1998
Gene Taylor spent a virtual lifetime on the staff of The Perry Daily Journal so it seemed a little surreal when he announced his retirement last year. After he had put in more than half-century on the job at this newspaper, folks had pretty well become accustomed to seeing him in and around the office. His distinctive, sometimes adversarial coverage of city council meetings helped to establish his image in the mind of the paper's readers. Dozens of friends and acquaintances joined together on Feb. 28 of last year to wish him well and celebrate his exit from the daily grind.
Gene was born with an eye problem that plagued him throughout his life. Thick-lensed glasses provided some help but he never enjoyed anything like normal vision. I've been told that with today's surgical tools and techniques his problem could have been solved in early childhood, but that solution came too late for him. Gene's sister, Marie, was with him all through his years in the Perry school system, but he was determined to make it on his own as an adult. While still in high school he worked in the circulation department at The Journal and he continued as a full-time employee here after graduating from Perry High School in 1942. W K. Leatherock, publisher of the paper at that time, understood Gene's problem and admired his attitude. He did not hesitate to offer him a regular job.
When World War II came along, most of Taylor's friends and contemporaries were called to military service. Since he was unable to go with them, Gene kept up a regular correspondence with many of the young men he had grown up with while they were in training or serving in combat zones. As a reporter for The Journal he stayed abreast of the news, including things that never broke into print, and he shared those in his voluminous correspondence.
I worked with Gene at the newspaper before and after the war. He seemed to enjoy covering various things in the community, although some of those drawn-out, long-winded council sessions were a real pain in the neck. Even when the city fathers met into the wee hours of the morning, debating issues of the day, Taylor faithfully returned to the office and wrote his story about the meeting, then showed up for work bright and early at the usual time the next day.
Despite his subjective view of some council members and other city officials, the mayor and council respected him enough to name a street for him several years ago. The bob-tailed thoroughfare that borders City Hall on the east was named "Gene Taylor Street" to show there were no hard feelings. Indeed, they usually enjoyed having him on the sidelines at every meeting.
Taylor was determined to live life on his own terms despite the serious disability that dogged him, and he spent his last few months in retirement doing pretty much what he pleased. He continued as a member of the Kumback regulars and he maintained his interest in what was going on around town even though he didn't have to write about it. The Journal gave him his desk and his faithful, battered old typewriter upon his retirement, but Gene had no use for them and donated them to Stagecoach Community Theatre, where they are put to good use.
It still seems strange not to see Taylor going in and out of the newspaper office and it will be even more so now that he is gone from the community. It is sad to think that his death came while he was alone, but he spent most of his life that way, by his own choosing. As we write "30" to Gene Taylor's personal story, we recognize that he will be missed, but we acknowledge with a tip of the hat his contribution to this community.