Ira TaylorCommunity activistIra Taylor, whose community...

February 06, 1994

Ira Taylor

Community activist

Ira Taylor, whose community activism transcended his reliance on a wheelchair and made him a familiar figure throughout the city's Sandtown-Winchester area, died of respiratory failure at University Hospital on Jan. 24. He was 64.

"He was very active in every aspect of life in the neighborhood," said Ella Johnson, director of the Sandtown-Winchester Improvement Association.

Children in the Gilmor Homes housing project, where he lived, knew him as founder of a "Just Say No to Drugs" club, Ms. Johnson said. "He took the kids on trips and kept them busy."

She said that he also was "concerned about redevelopment efforts in Sandtown-Winchester, both physically and socially."

Mr. Taylor lived his whole life in the neighborhood on the western edge of downtown, one of the city's poorest and now the focus of a broad-based revitalization effort.

Mr. Taylor's death was noted by City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who said of him: "He was small of stature but big in heart. He was always working to help young people and was a big fighter for the senior citizens and the handicapped. . . . He was a special guy."

She and others recalled his efforts to get a more accessible restroom and a new elevator installed recently at Mondawmin Mall.

Because of circulatory problems, he used a wheelchair.

Councilwoman Sheila Dixon, D-4th, called him an "extraordinary man" who "was very involved, and believe me, he traveled everywhere in that wheelchair."

He was keenly aware of the pressing needs of others and collected money to distribute food baskets to the needy residents of the Gilmor Homes.

Joan Conway, director of Human Services Hub 13 in Govans and a longtime friend, remembered Mr. Taylor as "having a big heart" and as a man who "fought injustice and anything that would adversely effect his neighborhood."

Michael R. Jones Sr., a spokesman for Community Building in Partnership Inc., a nonprofit organization revitalizing Sandtown-Winchester, said of Mr. Taylor, "He was a dedicated resident who believed that change can occur."

A tribute read at his funeral said, in part: "When he set out to accomplish whatever goals he may have set for himself, he wouldn't give up until his demands were met. He let nothing or no one deter him from reaching his goals."

Mr. Taylor attended city schools and was a graduate of Carver Vocational-Technical High School. He served in the Army during the Korean War and was discharged in 1953. He was a carpenter and a television and radio repairman for many years before being disabled by circulatory problems.

He was a member of the Gilmor Resident Advisory Board and president of the Urban Services Advisory Board for Center No. 9.

He was also chairman of the Urban Services "Just Say No to Drugs" club and marching band, and a member of the Baltimore Healthy State Program, the Western District Community Council and the Mass Transit Advisory Board.

His marriage ended in divorce.

Survivors include several stepchildren.

Services were held Monday.

Josephine Zahner


Josephine H. Zahner, a homemaker, died Jan. 30 of a stroke at her Highlandtown residence where she had lived since 1916. She was 90.

She was born Josephine Hrubes in Locust Point and moved to North Decker Avenue when it was known as Hare Street. She was a 1917 graduate of St. Wenceslaus School.

She was an accountant at the old O'Neill's department store on North Charles Street. She left there in 1923 to marry Matthew Zahner, a crane operator at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant. He died in 1979.

Mrs. Zahner was involved in Girl Scouting from 1936 until 1970. She was a counselor for scout leaders and helped to organize troops. She painted landscapes and seascapes in oils and made clothes for needy children.

She was a member of the Ladies of Charity and the Sodality at St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church, and of the Villa Assumpta Auxiliary in Towson.

"She was proud of her Czechoslovakian heritage and loved to cook ethnic dishes and maintain those traditions," said a son, Robert Zahner of Dundalk.

She also is survived by another son, Richard Zahner of Baldwin; a daughter, Mary Bloch of Dundalk; 10 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.

Services were held Wednesday.

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