After many years of teaching, playing music, and evangelizing in Hillsdale, Robert “Bob” L. Taylor died at home on March 27 from a heart attack after a brief illness, less than a month away from turning 73.
“I used to say he was like a happy puppy — he was always cheerful, always had a smile,” his wife Sharon Taylor said. “I very seldom saw him down. He just was very cheerful, positive, outgoing, and he met friends wherever he went. He loved to talk, he loved to tell jokes, he loved life.”
A people-person, Bob Taylor was known for his storytelling and warm personality. After retiring from Lenawee Christian School in 2010, he continued to perform with the Rifner Brass Quintet — which he helped found — and the Hillsdale Wind Symphony. He also served as an elder at Pine Ridge Bible Church and attended Equip Ministry on campus each week.
“He was a renaissance man, and liked a little bit of everything. He had passions in life, and his passions were his love of his God and his love of his family and his love of music. Almost everything Bob did revolved around one of those areas,” Sharon Taylor said.
Bob Taylor first began playing trumpet in high school band, inspired by a trumpet trio that visited the school. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Houghton College, his Master’s from Indiana University at Bloomington, and his Doctorate in music from the University of North Texas.
He then taught music at Fort Wayne Community Schools for 32 years before moving to Adrian, Michigan, to become a music teacher at Lenawee Christian School. Junior Madison Moore has known him ever since he taught her music in fourth grade.
“He was really great about meeting students where they were at. He worked really hard to be invested and to make sure we knew what we were doing,” Moore said. “He was definitely a warm personality, looking out for people and trying to keep connected with people and making sure they’re actually okay and not just appearing okay.”
When Bob Taylor earned his Doctorate in music performance while teaching, Moore said the entire school celebrated. Though most of his music students weren’t going on to pursue music as a career, Taylor still wanted to give music to them “to help them deal with life,” according to Wind Symphony Director Robert Livingston.
“He was compassionate, loved the kids. He wanted them to grow as people as much or more than he wanted them to grow as musicians,” Livingston said.
Even after retiring, Bob Taylor continued to teach college students in private lessons as well as help coach other instrumentalists in Wind Symphony.
“He was just the nicest guy. If he ever needed to correct someone in the section, he was always so nice about it. He loved working with kids, and some of his grandkids played songs on their instruments,” senior Shaine Timmins said. She plays in Wind Symphony with Bob and Sharon Taylor since her freshman year.
To many students, it’s not just “Bob,” it’s “Bob and Sharon” — whether it be travelling together with their grandchildren or simply attending Equip together.
“One thing that was definitely emphasized at his funeral was that he was very passionate about the family and having strong families and being a good father to his children and his step children and being a good husband. He definitely taught that to a lot of guys he discipled in Equip,” senior Leah Hickman, an Equip leader, said.
He lived that principle out in Wind Symphony rehearsals, always carrying Sharon’s trumpet in for her.
“One day there’s a downpour outside and Sharon comes in with this big black umbrella, totally dry. Bob comes in after her totally soaked and carrying all of their stuff,” Timmins said.
When Steve Briix, pastor of Pine Ridge Bible Church, came to Hillsdale, he said the Taylors adopted him and his family, opening up their home during the holidays and spending time with them throughout the year.
“He really loved people and he wanted people to really know Jesus,” Briix said. “He wanted people to walk with Jesus, not just as something they said but something they really understood in their lives. He loved meeting with people individually, talking about life and their struggles and their troubles and helping them to follow Christ in those ways.”
In one instance, Bob and Briix traveled about an hour to Albion College for Intervarsity. Bob met a young music major who wanted to discuss religion, and after a long conversation with her he asked her when her next recital was. A month later, Bob drove back to Albion with his wife for the recital, only to find the girl hardly even remembered who he was. Despite having met the girl only once, Bob wanted to be sure to show her his support.
“That was the kind of guy he was. He really cared about people and wanted to show interest in them and encourage them, especially in their walk with the Lord,” Briix said.
Bob served as an elder as well as the choir director at Pine Ridge. He always had a book suggestion about Christianity or the family, and he read about hymns at length.
“He was always reading things about music: how this hymn originated or that hymn, he knew all the background. I imagine if you could just throw a hymn out, he could tell you who wrote it, what the circumstances were surrounding it, and what inspired them to write it,” Briix said.
The Wind Symphony is brainstorming memorial ideas. Though details are still undetermined, they are considering creating a memorial fund scholarship.
“We’re thinking we want to do something that will last longer than a few hours at the funeral,” Livingston said. The scholarship might fund students taking private lessons, attending music camp, or winning a high school concerto competition.”
The funeral was well-attended, a testament to his character, according to Moore.
“Friends from high school, people from the college, and some people who I haven’t talked to in years from a lot of different areas made the drive out for the funeral because he was that important of a person to a lot of people and definitely left his mark on the community,” Moore said.
Bob is survived by his wife Sharon, children Scott Taylor, Brenda (Douglas) Loveberry, and Bowdee Nolin, eight grandchildren, and two brothers. He was preceded in death by his parents.