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1921 Robert 2023

Robert Lyle Taylor

August 4, 1921 — August 10, 2023

Detroit Lakes

Robert Lyle Taylor    August 4, 1921 – August 10, 2023

Obituary by Anne Cardot Taylor Schwaller, August 22, 2023

Robert L. Taylor of Middle Cormorant Lake, Lake Park, MN, passed away Thursday, August 10, 2023 from Covid and circulatory complications due to WWII injuries.  Just six days before, Bob had celebrated his 102nd birthday with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren at his side. A unique, talented and even inspirational person he will be missed and remembered by his family and many in the Becker County community.

Robert was born, the third son of five brothers, to Florence Fern Cardot and Lee Taylor in Erie, Pennsylvania on August 4, 1921.  He was raised on a truck farm and in suburban Erie.  He attended Mill Valley High School and New York University (NYU). He remembered well accompanying his father while making delivery of their grapes to Jamestown, NY. He attributes his pursuit of a college education to the encouragement of a librarian in the Erie Public Library.

Like many, his college career was interrupted by WWII. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps but served in the 42nd Infantry Rainbow Division in France.  While training as an engineer for that mission his unit was stationed near Fargo. He met his future wife, Mary Catherine Gronlund, of Fargo and Lake Park, on the steps of the Library at NDSU (NDSC). (He asked to borrow her library card.) He was injured near Dahn, Germany in the spring of 1945 and awarded the Purple Heart. Bob and Mary were married in New York, on Staten Island, in October of 1946 after a long convalescence for his legs and feet.

Changing majors at NYU after the war, Bob’s first career was in retailing and marketing.  His family grew to five with a daughter and two sons, while he worked in family-run department stores in mid-sized cities in Michigan and New York. In the early 1960’s, he joined a national discount department store chain, and was sent to Louisville, Kentucky.  Early free time diversions for Bob, included breeding Brittany Spaniels, learning to paint, playing Bridge, and always, gardening.  In the early 1950’s he helped his father-in-law, Iver Gronlund, and brother-in-law, Donald, build the family cottage on Middle Cormorant Lake.

Mary and Bob moved to Louisville in 1960 and were extremely happy there for over 30 years. They especially enjoyed the mild climate, the arts, and cultural advantages of the big city.  But vacations always meant the annual trip to Minnesota and the lake.  In the mid 1960’s, with college looming on the horizon for 3 children, they decided they needed more space and a larger home. They ordered plans, read books on construction, and built the new house themselves, with just hired day laborers, and a future son-in-law. It was an accomplishment that they were extremely proud of.

Towards the end of the 1960’s the discount department store chain for which Bob worked closed.  Bob and Mary decided to stay in Kentucky. After exploring advanced degrees, Bob began another career with the Post Office as a Rural Letter Carrier. He loved his second job as it afforded him a daily drive along the River Road from Louisville towards Cincinnati—Kentucky horse country with beautiful farms.  At home, he decided to enlarge his own garden and tried to make a go of growing local vegetables for market sale. In doing so, he also took up bee keeping and honey making, to service the garden.

As an artist Bob took up pottery as well as painting.  He built a small potting shed, harvested his own Kentucky clay for his artisan ware, and built his own kiln.  Since beginning as a weekend artist in the 1950’s, Robert had progressed from brush work in oil, to his preferred and most prolific period using palette knife and oil for realistic and impressionistic landscapes. In the 1970’s and 80’s he began to work mostly in watercolors “aux plein aire”, which better suited his time constraints, and equipment storage.  He made a promise to himself to try and paint all the small lakes of Becker County, MN.

Bob and Mary retired as early as they could in the 1980’s, in order to spend as much of the year as possible on Middle Cormorant. They took up golf. By the late 90’s they had enlarged the cottage and were ready to make Minnesota their permanent residence, while spending the mid-winters in Indiana at their son’s lakeside cabin in Brown County.  These years were filled with travel too: many trips abroad, an elder hostel program in Italy, and multiple trips to England, France, and Germany.  They loved traveling and made the most of wherever they found themselves, studying art, listening to music, going to concerts, taking in plays, and reading the local literature.

The love of his life, his wife Mary, died unexpectedly in 2003.  Bob found consolation and occupation in enlarging and preserving the home and gardens that they had made on Middle Cormorant Lake. Robert became a volunteer for the MN-DNR in the Citizen Lake Monitoring Program and for the Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations. He was active in the Middle Cormorant Lake Association, and he tested the waters of the lake for over 2 decades, while he recruited and trained other volunteers to do that for their lakes. He also wrote several of the annual reports for COLA.

Having watched his daughter become an active Master Gardener in Stevens County, MN, Bob followed suit and became an active Master Gardener in Becker County in 2006. His areas of expertise on compost and Hostas were widely appreciated, as well as his enthusiastic sharing of his large perennial plant garden starts for the MG annual spring plant sale.  Less known was that Bob had hybridized day-neutral strawberry plants over a period of 35 years, as well as several Hosta varieties.  He said he had 47 varieties of Hosta in his garden, and he shared plants with many of his friends and neighbors.

The three trips to Italy lead to a new appreciation of high school Latin. In his eighties and nineties, one would find Bob, carefully parsing out Latin words and phrases on large pieces of poster board. Following on that, he became fascinated with the Latin correspondence between Erasmus and Sir Thomas More. He began collecting many tomes of Erasmus’ writings.  At 95, he was reading Erasmus in Latin before breakfast as an anti-Alzheimer’s strategy.  Always an avid reader, Bob was a book collector. Besides collecting Erasmus, and Umberto Eco in Italian, he was most proud of his large library and his collections of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and many 20th century classics.

Bob was a romantic about life, gardens, and books.  He was a passionate environmentalist and conservationist.  Heartily disappointed that the township refused his bid to put solar panels or windmills on his property, he was a serious reader of ecology, the biological sciences, and astronomy.  He left behind a self-registered herbarium and participated in a purple loosestrife eradication program for the MN DNR.

His enthusiasm for his projects was sincere and boundless.  Like Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) he would say, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” He also had a good sense of humor, and upon leaving their home in Kentucky penned a little poem which started “Who will pick the bag worms off my Arborvitae when I am gone?”

Robert Taylor was the last of his generation.  He is survived by his daughter, Anne Cardot Taylor Schwaller (and John Frederick Schwaller,) son, Rex Johnson Taylor (and Debra Thorson,) and son, John Todd Taylor (and Teri L. Flener), also by 2 grandsons, 2 granddaughters, and 5 great grandchildren and by many nieces and nephews and cousins in the Taylor, Cardot, Tarr, Phillips and Gronlund families.  (Of course, he was an amateur genealogist!)

He will be remembered with fondness, affection, and love.    

Bob’s ashes will be interred with his wife, Mary, in the cemetery of Cormorant Lutheran Church, Lake Park, MN.  There will be a celebration of his life at the time of the internment next summer. In lieu of flowers or other gifts, Bob would want you to gaze out on the beauty of God’s creation and resolve to help in its stewardship. Support your local conservation and environmental programs. Invest in nature conservancy programs. Limit your own carbon footprint. “Turn off the lights!” and think of him fondly, at 102, whenever you see or set off celebratory fireworks!  He loved them!

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