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Clark Edson Taylor
October 1, 2023
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Clark Edson Taylor, 89, of Needham, passed away peacefully in his home on October 1. The eldest of three children to Clark G, and Myrtle (Brittain) Taylor, Clark grew up in Naperville, IL, graduating from Naperville High School in 1952 and DePauw University four years later with a History/Philosophy degree. He played football and was a trombone player in the marching band during both his high school and college years. It was at DePauw that he met the love of his life, Kay (Orr), with whom he shared 64 years of marriage.
He attended the Evangelical Theological Seminary, obtained a degree in theology, and was involved in church related work for a number of years. It included a move to Peoria to become the Director of Urban Work for the Council of Churches where he was involved with the racial integration of schools and integration of the building trades. During this time, he married Kay (1958) and had children Jeff, Heidi and Ellen. He and Kay met life-long friends the Jones and the Cripes during the Peoria years.
The family made the move to New Jersey in 1970 as Clark attended Rutgers University, receiving his master’s in urban and Regional Planning and his PHD. He then accepted a position helping to start the College of Public and Community Service at what is now the University of Massachusetts Boston. This innovative program that he helped developed focused on degrees for non-traditional students. He continued this work until his retirement in 2001. A Media Center at the school was named after him several years later.
An intellectual but with a dynamic, kindhearted personality, Clark’s impact was far-reaching. A social activist on numerous fronts, he was highly involved at Grassroots International, including Chairing the Board. He also chaired the Social Action Committee and Immigration Task Force at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Needham. But perhaps his largest legacy was, along with his wife Kay, creating a partnership between their Congregational Church of Needham and the village of Santa Maria Tezja in Guatemala. He made Central America a central focus of his life after visiting Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution. Clark and Kay headed the partnership for more than 20 years, each leading annual visits to Santa Maria Tezja and providing educational, housing and clean water support, among other areas. The partnership continues to this day. He has written two books regarding his experiences in Guatemala and Central America.
Clark and Kay lived in the same home in Needham for more than 50 years. Camping trips were a staple of their weekends while their children were growing up. Later on, they were able to travel to many countries across the globe for extended visits, immersing themselves in the cultures. Physically active all his life, Clark was an avid cyclist and, in his later years, walked extensively, greeting everyone he passed. Music was always a big part of his life as well, often reciting songs from his days as a camp counselor. He also took up baking– in support of the family – and photography – most frequently taking spectacular pictures of Kay’s magnificent flowers in their yard.
Though he was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease the last years of his life, even that could not deter his warm spirit and enthusiasm for life. Though his time here is up, he lived a full, exemplary life. The family patriarch was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He is survived by brother David (Donna) Taylor of Florida and sister Amy Pfeil of Jaffrey, NH, children Jeff (Anna) Taylor, Heidi Olaska and Ellen (David) Corbett, grandchildren Brooke (Ryan) O’Leary, Ryan, Cole, Henry and Nod Taylor, Emily, Jenny and Jered Olaska, and great grandchildren Grayson and Reece O’Leary.
A special thank you to First Light Home Care and Dad’s care givers Angela, Esther and Selma for taking such amazing care of him.
A special shout out to the fellow members of the “Night of the Square Table” for supporting dad until the end.
A memorial gathering will be held in his honor at First Parish in Needham, 23 Dedham Ave, Needham, on Saturday October 14 at 11:00 with a reception held at the church directly following a brief service. All are welcome. In Lieu of Flowers at his request donation can be made to: The Guatemala Partnership www.partnersguatemala.org