Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: A Representative and His Duties

 

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” — Edmund Burke

I knew a man, one of many pleasant anachronisms in my life that I did nothing to deserve. His friends called him “Bill.” We, his family, called him ” Papa.” He was born exactly 88 years ago, but I only first met him 59 years later. He was my mother’s father, the leader of an 11-member clan, and eventually a grandfather of 18. Things haven’t been the same since we lost him two years ago; such a man is not easily replaced. I might not go so far as to call him “great” – there will not likely be any institutions named after him, no statues either (thank goodness!) – but a good man is hard to find, and William Joseph Taylor was an especially good man.

Calling him an undertaker is fitting. Though he didn’t spend a lot of time preparing bodies for services, but he reopened the business his grandfather, John Irving Taylor, and Oscar Modeen founded in 1909. Papa’s undertaking was not limited to the funeral business. He and his wife of 66 years settled in Tequesta, FL, after leaving West Hartford, CT, in 1968. There, at 36 years of age, he worked tirelessly for his new community – then still aptly considered “The Village of Tequesta.” Involvement with the Jupiter Medical Center, Jupiter Pavilion (a hospice center) the Palm Beach County United Way, the Jupiter Tequesta Athletic Association, St. Jude Catholic Church, and the Florida Association for Retarded Persons were among his extra-curricular activities. He opened the first movie theatre in the area (it was, unsuccessful in part because his eldest decided to give candy to her friends). One time I asked him if he had ever seen a movie called The Last Picture Show. He gave me a knowing grin, and replied with a simple, “Yeah.” He knew I thought he was a lion. I really do still.

He served as a Councilman in Tequesta and a term as a member of the Florida House of Representatives. In 1981, after an unsuccessful re-election campaign, Papa continued his public service privately by founding T & M Ranch, a community for the developmentally disabled adults in the North Palm Beach area. (T & M was always the achievement that gave him the most pride.)

Papa holding his youngest of his nine children in the background. That’s Perry Como in front. This was likely for an ARC charity event – to my knowledge the two were not friends.

I don’t think it’s unfair for me to say that he and I had a special relationship. Unlike most grandchildren, I didn’t give much chase. As I approached adulthood, I sought him out at every opportunity. I squeezed him for what he had to offer, and fortunately he had a lot up his sleeve. Divorces were becoming commonplace, even in our tight-knit family, so an expert in the business of family caught my attention. I suppose like most strong relationships, this was due to shared anxieties at least as much as it was from shared interests: he liked golf, I preferred sports that allowed me to hit things hard; I’m not sure he knew many of the bands, or filmmakers, or writers I had come to admire. I was never a reader as a boy, and I’m not sure he ever had much time for books. Even so, there were many things we both loved. A large family tends to have this effect.

One evening, maybe eight years ago, I did what I tended to in those days, I ruined a family dinner by disagreeing vehemently about something I believe matters. (I can’t even recall what it was today, but I doubt I’ve changed my mind.) Afterward, he asked me to join him in his office, and then he handed me one of those books that can be purchased at Brooks Brothers, this one containing famous quotations. He said that he has had it for years, and has found a lot of these words very useful in his own life. Without breaking eye contact, he recited the words of Burke.

He liked it when people stood up; he found in his years that many never do. It was not uncommon for him to do so and find himself standing alone, sometimes in altercations that couldn’t help but get ugly. I remember he liked the story about how his best friend, a doctor, and he met while on the Board of Jupiter Medical Center. I can’t recall what Doctor Grogan said, but Papa who already had quite a bit of experience in these matters, interjected with, “That’s illegal…. and unethical.” Not really something anybody likes to hear, usually being told one is wrong is enough to set them off, but the former understood his error and the two remained partners until Doc’s last day.


Much of what made him the man he became was born of tragedy. Papa’s father took his own life when he was just eight years old. They moved around a lot after this, and the stories I have of this time in his life are few. I do know he was made chaperone of his younger sister when they traveled cross-country. I believe he was 10 the first time and I suspect he had to do things like this more than once. They stayed with their relatives in rougher neighborhoods than the lace-curtain one he had been cradled in. After his mother remarried a Coast Guard officer, they continued to move about, but at least there was some stability. They were relocated to Coral Gables, FL, in the late ’40s, and there he met my grandmother. He knew he liked a FitzGibbon girl, but he had to date three of them in order to pick. That was always such a peculiar story to me when I was growing up. I’ve seen the pictures, and, to be sure, and they were all lovely, but it wasn’t until I learned more about my great-grandfather – another community man who worked his way up from very little and contributed what he could out of a sense of duty as much as a charitableness. They called him “Papa,” and only recently did I hear that my Papa chose his grandpa name when he heard my eldest cousin was on the way. I think he always knew what he wanted to be.

When he died he was, as they say in biz, “surrounded by loved ones.” This was no exaggeration. The only of his grandchildren who couldn’t be by side are a Merchant Marine, a Navy man, and a spectacular classical pianist caught right in the middle of his finals week. That they knew to honor their commitments would have made him proud (he wasn’t really conscious by the time any of us got there). After his soul departed, my family was approached by a plethora of younger men, mostly in or around my parents’ generation. Each told us some variation of, “Your father/grandfather was kind of like a second father to me.” As for his actual descendants, we had our tears at the hospice center he helped start, but the week was generally a joyous occasion. The laughter stood out, and that he got us all together again was his grand finale. I have little doubt that he was pleased by that.

Though retired, he isn’t one to stop checking in.


[I just wanted to add a couple more pictures that my wonderful aunt sent me last night.]


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  1. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A very touching tribute.

    • #1
    • July 3, 2020, at 9:00 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Hoyacon Member

    Very well done!

    Not sure that I agree with Edmund Burke, though.

    • #2
    • July 3, 2020, at 9:06 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Arahant Member

    One would think with the windows closed and the air conditioning on that my allergies wouldn’t kick up, but here they are. “Papa” sounds like quite a fellow.


    And this is the Quote of the Day. If you have a quotation that brings back memories, why not pick an open date and share it with us?

    • #3
    • July 3, 2020, at 9:11 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. Samuel Block Support
    Samuel Block

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    A very touching tribute.

    Thanks, Jim. A little long for a QOTD, but I owed him this one.

    • #4
    • July 3, 2020, at 9:21 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. RightAngles Member

    I think I can see where you get your character. A really nice tribute.

    • #5
    • July 3, 2020, at 9:24 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  6. Samuel Block Support
    Samuel Block

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Very well done!

    Not sure that I agree with Edmund Burke, though.

    Burke would certainly qualify as an elitist by any modern definition. It was him who referred to the “swinish multitude.” But I often wonder whether our politicians today really stand for anything, or whether they simply follow the wind like paper. I think of Daniel Patrick Moynihan when I read this, and had it not been the man above who introduced me to this quote – the guy was often battling alone against an entire room – I might have had mixed feelings on it myself.

    In my original draft I thought to mention how it was a bit of a dangerous thing to give this to an arrogant young man. He told me on a few occasions that he was a “nasty bastard”as a young man, but he was quick to acknowledge his own foolishness, so I think he was open to the idea that experience begat necessary amendments to shaky beliefs.

    • #6
    • July 3, 2020, at 9:31 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    I was confused by the extra hands in the picture. Is that a young Joe Biden back there??

    • #7
    • July 3, 2020, at 9:41 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  8. Samuel Block Support
    Samuel Block

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    I was confused by the extra hands in the picture. Is that a young Joe Biden back there??

    Good eye! I hadn’t notice that. They were an inviting couple, but I’d recognize those curls anywhere: my Aunt Amy.

    • #8
    • July 3, 2020, at 9:50 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Thank you, Samuel. Papa sounds like he was a very special man. I’m sure he loved watching you grow up and how you turned out.

    • #9
    • July 3, 2020, at 10:06 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Samuel Block: Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
    – Edmund Burke

    It was (arguably) easier to follow Burke’s maxim in those days, since Members of Parliament were yet to receive salaries for their services, so losing an election did not represent an end to an MP’s livelihood (since they were almost certainly already independently wealthy).

    Of course, the downside of not paying elected officials should also be fairly apparent, so it’s not a debate that will be resolved any time soon.

    That being said, the continuing success of the New Hampshire House of Representatives serves as a pretty compelling case for not paying ’em as long as the size of their electoral districts is kept very small and as long as they don’t have to maintain a second residence in the capital city.

    • #10
    • July 3, 2020, at 11:27 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  11. PHCheese Member

    What a guy!

    • #11
    • July 3, 2020, at 11:52 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Samuel Block Support
    Samuel Block

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    Samuel Block: Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
    – Edmund Burke

    It was (arguably) easier to follow Burke’s maxim in those days, since Members of Parliament were yet to receive salaries for their services, so losing an election did not represent an end to an MP’s livelihood (since they were almost certainly already independently wealthy).

    Of course, the downside of not paying elected officials should also be fairly apparent, so it’s not a debate that will be resolved any time soon.

    That being said, the continuing success of the New Hampshire House of Representatives serves as a pretty compelling case for not paying ’em as long as the size of their electoral districts is kept very small and as long as they don’t have to maintain a second residence in the capital city.

    Good points. I suppose he was being literal about your Representative, distinguished from some guy with the job. In theory he is the best available option your community has to offer. Burke formulated this as the “Trustee model of representation.” Unfortunately, everybody is too busy nowadays for local politics and many were already uninterested in leaving the house before COVID or the riots.

    (Also, “COVID and the Riots” would make a good band name.)

    • #12
    • July 3, 2020, at 1:09 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. Samuel Block Support
    Samuel Block

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    What a guy!

    Thanks for reading Cheese. And Susan, Arahant, RA, plus the rest of you! 

    • #13
    • July 3, 2020, at 1:11 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Just lovely. A life well-lived. I’m a little verklempt. 

    • #14
    • July 3, 2020, at 5:33 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Samuel Block Support
    Samuel Block

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Just lovely. A life well-lived. I’m a little verklempt.

    I tried to keep it as positive as possible, the man was my hero. But there were some tough years. I got the best of him. 

    • #15
    • July 3, 2020, at 5:39 PM PDT
    • 3 likes