Harold Baker Taylor died Wednesday, October 21st. His was a long and valiant fight with cancer. As soon as we cousins heard, as many as could, planned to come together for the funeral. This past Sunday, we met up in the same Waterloo funeral home that we had also said goodbye to Aunt Barb in.
I remembered that Uncle Harold loved to give nicknames—mine was ‘Patrick’. At a very early age I thought, ‘I know I have a very short pixie hair cut, but can’t he see that I am a girl and not a boy??!’ Later, I realized that it was an honor to have an Uncle Harold nickname.
After the wake, we all took our seats for the funeral. It was a wonderful ceremony presided over by Kathy’s minister. Both Mom and Jim stood up to remember Harold.
Aunt CBMom, as Uncle Harold’s big sister, spoke:
Harold was a good fellow. We learned how to work hard in our raising and we worked hard and had fun. We had good neighbors, we played Red Light, Kick the Can, all the things that you people did when you were small. And we were a close, loving family. We had family clubs.
And we were a clever family, you know, we had nicknames for everybody. Like, oh, one was Stinky Pot and another one was Windy Bags….
And then I graduated from high school. And I wanted to go to Rochester and become a nurse. So, I knew it was a tight financial squeeze but I knew I was also really going to do it. But what my brother had done was make friends here in Waterloo. Some of those friends, their father had a poultry house. Every Saturday Harold cleaned the hen houses. He saved all that money and when I graduated from high school, he gave me his money and that was part of my tuition.
And yes, when I became a nurse, I did go to work and I saved and I paid him back, but I really feel that you all should know the kind of fellow that he really was. I was just very, very proud and lucky to have a brother like him.
My brother Jim followed:
I’m just going to do a little remembering here of Harold Taylor. He was a font of wisdom.
Harold was a practical joker, dressing up when he was ten or so as Lucille’s friend “Mabel” to fool his Mom.
“Whatever blows your skirts up?” was one of his favorite sayings.
He was a lover of candy, frequently being shoed out of Grant’s store in Geneva for sprawling on the floor in an attempt to retrieve candy dropped under the counter. He saved any candy he found to share with his sisters over the weekend in a cigar box they kept hidden in the girls’ room.
He was an admirer of his Uncle Adin Baker, the leader of the Roll-Down-Stockings club, who helped him not only understand but also find the fun in life.
Above all, Uncle Harold was a kid. “And let me just say one thing,” he never lost any of these traits as he aged. Regardless of his physical age, I’d say his mental aged maxed out at around 8.
For a decade Harold went camping in Algonquin Park, up in Canada, with some of my family. We’d have to canoe in a number of miles with our gear over lakes that were “smoother than piss in a pan.” Us younger bucks would go ahead and scout out a good campsite, then Harold and the older bucks would arrive, set up the campsite, and Happy Hour would begin. He wasn’t too happy the one year Aunt Barb and I switched out his paddle pain reliever with iced-tea, “Did you ever back into a buzz saw? How about sit on a hot stove?” Funny thing is, it took him two days to realize it was iced-tea and not paddle pain reliever! He was going to “pound sand up my ass” for that. Another time my brothers and I rigged up a bucket to dump water on his head as he sat on the toilet…that was the year we discovered Harold didn’t have a BM every day. He got us back by piling sticks under our tent so we couldn’t sleep. When we found the sticks and pulled them out, he filled our tent with “barking spiders.” He had a real knack for finding them. He was like the Pied Piper of barking spiders.
Harold made life fun. He believed we’re here to help each other, not just ourselves. Sometimes it’s easy and times are great, other time’s it’s not and we need a hand. Harold apparently had a lot more than two hands because, like Uncle Adin before him, he helped a lot of people.
I realize Uncle Harold’s not really gone… he just paddled ahead to pick out the next campsite. You and I will be coming along later. Though I never knew Uncle Adin, I’m sure he’s there waiting and I’m also sure he’ll have a huge grin on his face. Harold spent his life trying to be like Uncle Adin, and he did him proud. “Nuts don’t fall far from the tree,” I hear. I’m spending my life trying to be like Uncle Harold.
After we all dried our eyes, we went to the Moose Lodge and had a terrific spread of food as we chose between some of Uncle Harold’s many funny gag gifts, and in honor of Harold, several of the cousins did the Taylor Squat.
The Cousins Taylor Squat
I will end with Jim’s metaphor—Uncle Harold and Aunt Barb have just gone on ahead to find the next campsite (although as Jim said, it is funny to think of Barb camping!) We will get there in our own time, and then what a wonderful campfire we will have, surrounded by so many cousins and relatives we knew and some we have only heard stories about! We’ll keep the Harold and Barb stories alive so that our grandchildren can absorb a bit of the flavor of their lives. How lucky we were to have known and loved them.
Thank you to my sister Sue for finding this terrific quote!
Thanks to Chuck Lochner and Richard Maney for these pictures, and Uncle Jack for this Alqonquin one! Also, thanks to Jen Kinsella for taking the Taps video, and to Sue Kinsella for figuring out how to post it here! See what a group effort this is.
Uncle Harold at Algonquin