1916 - 2017
Dr. Edmund Rhett Taylor March 26, 1916 June 23, 2017 COLUMBIA – Courageous, determined and gracious to the end, Dr. Edmund Rhett Taylor died on June 23, 2017. Born in Columbia, SC, on March 26, 1916, Edmund lived a full, productive, and adventurous life fueled by an insatiable desire to serve and learn. The son of George Coffin and Ellen Elmore Taylor, Edmund spent his early childhood in Columbia, the city built on his ancestor Colonel Thomas Taylor’s farm. In 1925, Edmund moved with his family to Chapel Hill, NC, where his father became Professor of Shakespeare and Milton at the University of North Carolina. As a boy roaming the countryside around what was then the village of Chapel Hill, Edmund became fascinated with the wonder of birdlife. Edmund majored in biology at UNC. Upon graduation in 1939, he toured 2,000 miles through Europe on a three-speed bike. He received his M.D. degree from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1941 and served his surgical residency at the Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, NY. When the United States entered World War II, he joined the 9th Evacuation Hospital Unit formed by the Roosevelt Hospital. Captain Taylor served his country in World War II as a surgeon in army trauma units and was involved in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Southern France, and Germany from 1942-1945. After the war, he returned to Columbia and married Mary Baldwin Herbert. They moved to Rochester, Minnesota where Edmund completed further surgical training at the Mayo Clinic. He practiced surgery in Durham, NC, and returned to Columbia in 1956 where he continued to practice general and thoracic surgery until 1990. During that time, he was actively involved in the medical community where he served as president of the Columbia Medical Society, Chief of Staff at Richland Memorial Hospital, Chief of Surgery at Lexington County Hospital, and Chief of Surgery at State Park Health Center. Edmund’s work as Chairman of the South Carolina Medical Society’s Emergency Care Committee was instrumental in laying the foundation for current trauma care practices in South Carolina. Dr. Taylor cared for and was interested in people from all walks of life. He was known for his warm and caring manner, superb diagnostic skills, willingness to make house calls, and the reassuring pat on the back accompanied by his famous line, “Well, I think you’ll live!” Life in the Taylor family was loving and lively. The Westshore Road home had an open door where interesting dinner table conversations took place over healthy and delicious meals. Edmund built roaring wood fires, and invited friends and family to gather for story-telling, poetry reading, and animated discussions. Mary and Edmund have been devoted partners for 70 years. They have imparted their reverence for God and their love for people and nature to their four children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. The hub of the extended Taylor family, “Papa and Nana” demonstrated in word and deed the blessings of a life lived with gratitude, flexibility, and a focus on others. Exercise was a priority in the Taylor household. Summers were filled with daily swims across Spring Lake before breakfast and long swims beyond the breakers at Pawley’s Island. An avid tennis player, Edmund played until his 100th year. A lifelong ornithologist, he was always looking and listening for birds. Binoculars and Peterson’s field guide were his trusty companions on any outing. Medicine, tennis and birds were his abiding loves second only to Mary. Upon retirement, Edmund took up farming and conservation projects. When not on the tennis court, he would load up the old gray station-wagon with his Brittany spaniel and tools to head for “Fairfield”, Mary and Edmund’s farm outside of Winnsboro. Edmund’s reputation for out-walking and out-working the younger members of his family regardless of the heat was legendary. He enjoyed both hunting and fishing, never missing an opportunity to teach his grandchildren about anatomy when cleaning a fish or bird. Edmund and Mary spent time crossing continents and cultures. From the Rockies to the Alps, from the Himalayas to the Andes, and on innumerable trails in South Carolina and Virginia, Mary and Edmund relished an exhilarating hike. Edmund and Mary served in both civic and church life together. As Ambassadors for the City of Columbia and the State of South Carolina, they collaborated with Historic Columbia Foundation to protect places of special interest. They co-chaired the South Carolina Tri-Centennial for Columbia and the Midlands, and were instrumental in promoting public parks along the Congaree River near the Columbia canal. Edmund and Mary were pioneers in helping form the Earth Stewardship movement at Trinity Cathedral. This program became a model for other institutions across South Carolina. They worked with many organizations to protect clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, and special places. A longtime board member of the Academy of Columbia, Edmund advocated for “structured literacy” in the Columbia community. Academy of Columbia funds have been used to train numerous teachers in Richland One, to establish a dedicated collection of materials at Richland Library, and to support Tutor Eau Claire as a training center in the Midlands. Edmund loved art and literature, and spent years editing a trunk full of letters detailing the rich and interesting life of his Aunt Anna Heyward Taylor. He and Alex Moore published Selected Letters of Anna Heyward Taylor: South Carolina Artist and World Traveler. Edmund valued the discipline of reading his entire life, and maintained a high level of interest in history, art, theology, natural history, and medicine. Edmund was always ready to go, willing to do, eager to explore; encouraging everyone and anyone to participate with him. All who did were better for the experience. His relentless optimism and his belief in the inherent good in people fueled the vigor with which he lived life. He touched countless lives, but none more than the family that survives him and which he held so dearly: his wife, Mary Herbert Taylor of Columbia, SC; children, Edmund Rhett Taylor, Jr (Gail) of Sapphire, NC, Mary Beverley Taylor Haque (Imtiaz) of Clemson, SC, Georgia Taylor Brennecke (Frank), and George Coffin Taylor (Barbara) of Columbia, SC; grandchildren, Noman Haque (Durkhy) of Lilburn, GA, Howard Timberlake (JoAnne) of Greenville, SC, Lexanne Boyd (Ken) of Saluda, NC, Anna Dowdey (Matt) of Columbia, SC, Mary Jehan Haque (deceased), Omar Haque (Kerri) of Congers, NY, Taylor Brennecke (Sarah) of Columbia SC, Mariana Sara Haque of Spartanburg, SC, Virginia Gayden Taylor and Mary Claire Taylor of Columbia, SC; great grandchildren, Zari Haque, Jawid Haque, Brenn Dowdy, and Caroline Haque. The service for Dr. Taylor will be held at 2 o’clock Monday, June 26th, at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, with The Very Reverend Timothy Jones officiating, with burial in the churchyard. The family will receive friends following the service in Satterlee Hall. Shives Funeral Home, Trenholm Road Chapel, is assisting the family. Memories and condolences may be shared at ShivesFuneralHome.com.
Obituary courtesy of The State