George Robert Taylor, a 65-year career banker and three-year veteran of World War II who flew 35 combat missions over enemy-occupied Europe, has said his final goodbyes. At Broad Street United Methodist Church, those whose lives he has touched over a lifetime, will say theirs.
Less than a month from his 89th birthday, “Bobby,” as his friends knew him, died peacefully Friday night in a local hospital surrounded by those who loved him most.
Who was Bobby Taylor? Perhaps it best to ask, who was he not?
Most communities have their movers and shakers. Bobby Taylor was one of ours. He was a banker who believed in the value of believing in others. He was a Cleveland and Bradley County leader who led by actions, not by words. He was a civic servant who felt volunteerism was a privilege, not a chore. He was a successful businessman who entrusted in his employees the run of a bank without fear or favor. He preserved the heritage of downtown Cleveland by staying ... at a time when others were leaving. Perhaps most of all, he was a staunch ally of the American veteran ... a courageous soldier from an era gone by who carried his love for the U.S. flag and for those who bravely defended it to his final resting place.
A faithful husband of 62 years to his wife, Nancy, whom he married in 1948 ... a proud father and a loving grandfather, Bobby Taylor never considered himself a giant among men. But the legacy he leaves behind is monumental.
Of his impact on community, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland recalls, “Bobby was a great leader in both city and county governments and was instrumental in many achievements that have formed this great community.”
Of his passion for freedom, State Rep. Kevin Brooks offers, “When I think of veterans and heroes in Bradley County, I think of Bobby Taylor. He will be greatly missed and his service will never be forgotten.”
Of his influence on those around him, Bank of Cleveland Senior Vice President Christy Griffith cites, “He was like a grandfather to me and he will always have an influence in my life ... for us here at Bank of Cleveland we will all miss him.”
Of his commitment to free enterprise and the re-emergence of downtown, MainStreet Cleveland Executive Director Sharon Marr stresses, “At a time when many were leaving downtown, he chose to refurbish an historic building as he began his new bank. He will be sadly missed as one of our biggest advocates and supporters.”
Bobby Taylor was all those attributes and many more. He was a friend to those who needed a friend most. He was a confidante to those whose voice had grown silent for lack of an ear to hear them. He was a believer in the fundamental good of those around him and a supporter of those desperate for a word of encouragement. He was a resource for those down on their luck and a soft smile for the despondent. He was a man of character who was an excellent judge of character. He was a man’s man who believed no man stands alone.
A banker. A believer. A bold businessman whose values were exceeded only by his bravery in battle as an American soldier defying those who would oppress the defenseless.
It has been said old soldiers never die ... they just fade away.
But Bobby Taylor — the soldier and liberator — is gone. He has made his farewells while leaving behind a heartfelt legacy, one of hope, one of humanity and one of love.
Wreaths of honor hang today upon your door.
The curls of American flags whip gently in the breeze.
Your friends weep and your community mourns.
But we take warmth in knowing you rest in a better place.
And we are the better for having known you ... in life, and now in death.