(Tim) For some forty years, now--during all the years I've loved her daughter, Mary Lee--Mom Taylor has been one of my heroines. A couple weeks ago, Mary Lee and I travelled back to Wheaton to attend a banquet held in Mom's honor by the Crowell Trust upon the occassion of the Trust awarding Mom their Susan Coleman Crowell Award.
Mary Lee is number nine of ten and her next older sibling, Mrs. Bob (Gretchen) Worcester, gave a short sketch of Mom's life and character. She did such a good job, I asked if she would send a copy of what she'd said.
Here then is Gretchen's bio of Mom. All of us in the Taylor clan rise up and call Mom blessed. May our Heavenly Father continue to provide His covenant children with such godly mothers as He provided us in Margaret West Taylor. (And for the record, our next to youngest, Hannah Weeks, just gave birth to Mom's forty-seventh great grandchild, and Lord willing, any day now our eldest, Heather Ummel, will give birth to Mom's forty-eighth (Mary Lee's and my tenth grandchild).
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Tribute to Mom – Susan Coleman Crowell Award
I’ve been asked to share about our mom tonight from a family perspective – how she has been influential as a wife and mother.
The first thing to understand about Margaret Taylor as a wife and mother is that she was married to the same man for 65 years, and that she raised 10 children! Those are both amazing numbers! But probably even more amazing than the number of children was our spacing.The first 5 came in 5 years…then there was a “huge” space of 3 years (!) …then 5 more children in 6 years! 10 children in 14 years! This means that there were many years with 3-at-a-time in diapers… many years with 5 teenagers at once…and several years with 3 in college at once!
Most people find it interesting to hear the statistics of Mom’s large family: 10 children, 28 grandchildren, and now 44 great-grandchildren! But that number will soon rise to 47 as there are 3 more babies due in the next few weeks!
But just as interesting as thinking of Mom as the matriarch of this large clan is to realize that until 6 weeks ago, she was actually still a daughter herself. Her stepmother, who married into the family in 1951, just passed away on June 29th at the age of 106! Mom was very, very faithful in keeping Grandma Edna apprised of all the family events through hand-written letters each week. In fact, at our family reunion last week, Mom commented, “I keep thinking I need to remember all these details so I can write to Edna about them.” Even though traveling has become more difficult for Mom, she did fly out to Wash. state for Edna’s memorial service... which followed on the heels of a grandson’s wedding in Del. the week before, which she also went to. All that to say, family events are highlights in Mom’s life and she won’t miss them if she can help it.
The biggest example of that is our annual family reunion at our summer house in Mich. When many families talk about a reunion, they want to know, “What time is it happening on Sat?” Our reunions are not just a 2- or 3-hour event, or even a weekend event. They last for 9 days – and this year, 70 family members came for some part of that time! For the first several years of these gatherings, Mom handled the food aspect of the reunion almost singlehandedly – planning, shopping, and cooking it all – until the year that she decided to join her siblings on a trip to Alaska that happened to be the same week as our reunion. That was the year that the grown-ups in the family finally grew up and started pitching in more. I think we owe Mom a belated apology because until that time, I’m not proud to say, we just kind of assumed that Mom would do it all because she was “Mom” and she always had!
Still today, Mom enjoys planning for the reunion, especially baking and freezing dozens of cookies in advance. Then she keeps them hidden away in her bedroom so they can’t just be snacked on at the whim of every little person walking through the kitchen. She wants them to be enjoyed as dessert for everyone! That’s a job that we’ll let her keep doing, and won’t feel guilty about!
I know that Mom’s desire tonight, even as we honor her, is that God would get the glory. She didn’t plan to become a helpmate to a man who would be used of God in such a way that he would become famous across the globe. That was God’s plan – and she just followed along, doing her part as Ken Taylor’s wife. She didn’t plan to have 10 children in a short space of time, which required formidable parenting skills. But that was God’s plan, and she did her best to obey God’s high calling to motherhood.
As wonderful as my dad was in many, many ways, he was not a big help to Mom around the house. Mom readily admits this in her autobiography, and if Dad were here tonight, he would admit it too. In the early years of family life, Dad was committed to his seminary studies, and then to his various jobs over the years – one year of which required being gone all week and coming home only on weekends. This was when they had 4 children under 5, and Mom was pregnant with the 5th. (And, I might add, they didn’t even own a car!) Years later, when the family had grown to 10 children and Dad was working on the Bible paraphrase, he did the studying and writing not only on his train commutes, but also in the evenings and on weekends. He had an important calling – so even when he was at home, he tended to be working at his desk in their upstairs bedroom rather than changing diapers, helping children with homework, or helping his wife in the kitchen. I mention this not to lay any kind of blame on my dad or to sully his good name, but to point out that where today’s young mothers expect their husbands to pitch in and help at home, this was not the expectation of that generation. A woman’s work was in the home and a man’s work was bringing home the bacon. So just as it was said of Susan Coleman Crowell that “she shared joyfully in her husband’s every vision as a Christian statesman,” so Margaret Taylor stood by her man and supported his Christian calling even though it meant more work was put on her at home.
Susan Crowell was also described as a wealthy socialite of her day. Unlike her, our parents were far from wealthy in their early years (and, I might add, far from socialites ever!) With so many mouths to feed and children to clothe, “Frugal” could have been Margaret Taylor’s middle name! Mom was a home economics major in college and she knew how to stretch a dime to make ends meet, as well as how to stretch the meat to feed 12 hungry mouths. That was usually done through casseroles or soups, which don’t require much meat per capita, with biscuits or muffins to fill out the meal. Mom recalls sometimes fixing what she called 10-cent suppers. Not 10 cents each, but 10 cents for the whole family! That meal consisted of French toast made from stale bread that she bought for 5 cents a loaf, and eggs that she got free from a chicken farm because they were cracked. So 10 cents for two loaves of bread fed the whole family on those nights.
I can’t say that Henry Parsons Crowell was a household name at our house, but the products of his company with their familiar Quaker Man logo, were staples on our breakfast table. If it wasn’t cooked oatmeal (which it often was, and I for one never learned to like it), cold cereal was also an option. In fact, cold cereal with milk was also the traditional Sunday supper at our house following evening church. So I think our family singlehandedly kept Quaker Oats afloat for many years long after its founder was gone.
Susan Crowell was referred to as a “hostess without peer,” but I think Mom could give her a run for her money. Maybe not in the style of Susan’s high-class entertaining, but certainly in her willingness to open her home to all. From inviting friends home from church for dinner, to hosting visiting missionaries, to inviting over other large families because she understood what that would mean to them, to inviting widowed friends for lunch, to offering her extra bedrooms to long-term guests, Mom embodies the “open heart/open home” spirit of generosity. What is her motivation behind this? Not just that she enjoys cooking (though she does), but more importantly, she enjoys serving others. One of her favorite verses is Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others.” So serving others is a way of patterning her life after Jesus Christ.
If you’ve been a guest in Mom’s home, chances are you’ve been invited to play a game of Scrabble with her. As Mom’s number of birthdays surpassed 80, and then 90, she felt it was important to keep her mind sharp. For years, she and Dad played a nightly game of Scrabble,
challenging each other with new words (or in Dad’s case, making up new words!) and passing the imaginary trophy back and forth. Today, Scrabble continues to top the list of Mom’s favorite activities and she often earns the winning score with 7-letter words. Maybe the reason she knows so many words is that she is also an avid crossword puzzle worker. A couple of weeks ago, while riding with Mark and Carol to the family reunion, their van got waylaid by malfunctioning brakes. When it was clear that the detour to get them fixed was going to add several hours to their drive time, Mark went and bought a crossword puzzle book and they passed the time by working on the puzzles together. Mom loved it!
Where Susan Crowell’s passion was living out her faith by verbally sharing the good news of Christ with everyone she met, Margaret Taylor’s just-as-fervent faith has been lived out in more quiet ways – primarily by her faithfulness to her high calling as a wife and mother, by raising her children in a home where the Bible was read and revered as the rulebook for living, and through her very faithful prayer life.
No woman wants to be compared to the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31 because the bar is set impossibly high. However, the chapter ends with these words: “Her children rise up and bless her… Charm is deceptive and beauty does not last, but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”
So tonight, Mom, we honor you as a woman who has loved and served the Lord all your life. Thank you for the wonderful example that you set for us all. We thank the Lord for the blessings that He has bestowed on you throughout your life, and for the blessings that He has bestowed on us through you.
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Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. (Proverbs 31:28-31)