Irene Gladys Taylor

[ Age 107 ] One of the oldest Marylanders, she had a simple but rich life, with eight children and a nearly 60-year marriage.

October 18, 2006|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN REPORTER

"She was one of those old-time people who raised a family, took care of her husband, was a regular churchgoer and sang in the choir," the Rev. Irvin C. Lochman said yesterday of his church's longest-attending and oldest member.

He was remembering Irene Gladys Taylor, who died a week ago as she neared her 108th birthday. She was the matriarch of a Baltimore family that includes 87 living descendants across four generations.

One of Maryland's oldest residents, Mrs. Taylor had a simple but rich life, raising her eight children while never smoking, touching alcohol or driving a car, with a marriage that lasted nearly 60 years until her husband's death in 1978.

She was delivered by a midwife on Oct. 23, 1898, at her family's Morris Street home near the Orchard Street Methodist Church, just south of what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Christened Irene Gladys Guinn, she attended Baltimore public schools before family members sent her to Storer College in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., where she received her eighth-grade diploma.

As a child, she visited the restaurant her grandmother owned and operated on Druid Hill Avenue, but Mrs. Taylor did not follow her into the catering profession. And throughout her life, she ate moderately and avoided rich foods.

While attending a service at the Orchard Street church, she met Arnett Ameredith Taylor, who was a clerk in a downtown book bindery. They were married in the church Aug. 17, 1919. Mr. Taylor insisted that his wife not work, but stay home and raise their family in a quiet setting.

Throughout their marriage, the couple lived in West Baltimore, initially on Edmondson Avenue and later on North Carey Street, where they resided with her husband's parents and inherited the house.

"My mother led a sheltered life and did everything with my father," said a daughter, Agnes Ray, who cared for her mother in her later years. "They had a precious love. Everywhere my father went, she went."

In 1928, the Taylors marched with other congregation members from the Orchard Street church to its new home on Lafayette Square as the Metropolitan United Methodist Church, where her funeral was held Monday.

"She will go down in the history of the church," said Dr. Lochman, Metropolitan's former pastor, who participated at her funeral.

Mrs. Taylor was dedicated to her church. She was an usher and headed the Metropolitan Sunday school for many years. An alto in its choir, she also sang at religious functions with gospel ensembles.

At Monday's funeral, Metropolitan's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah G. Williams, said she was its oldest member.

She also joined social organizations with which her husband had ties. She was a member of the Elks, and because her husband was a Mason, Mrs. Taylor belonged to its Order of the Eastern Star Chapter No. 41, where she held the post of Most Worthy Matron.

"We were poor but we lived in three-story houses, and what we owned was always clean. Daddy provided for three square meals a day. We were never on welfare," Mrs. Ray said yesterday. "After we were out of the family house and married, we continued to gather at Mama's for birthdays and holidays. She was the family leader."

Her daughter recalled that Mrs. Taylor accompanied her husband and children to Baltimore park band concerts held in Lafayette Square on summer evenings. He played trombone in the band, and she sat on a folding chair in the audience.

When the family finances permitted, the Taylors bought a radio and, in years later, a television. She watched I Remember Mama in the 1950s and in later years watched Maude and The Jeffersons.

Mrs. Taylor also visited the sick and homebound as part of her church's Caring and Sharing Committee. She enjoyed crocheting, arts and crafts, and working with flowers.

Mrs. Taylor lived independently until 1990, when she was 92, and moved in with her daughter, Mrs. Ray. She died Oct. 11 at Genesis Manor Care in North Baltimore, where she had lived for nearly 13 years.

Survivors include four other daughters, Ruth V. Collic, Elaine Lewis, Gladys Deas and Marcia Johnson, all of Baltimore; 28 grandchildren; 31 great-grandchildren; and 23 great-great-grandchildren.

She outlived two sons and a daughter: Edinburgh Arnett Taylor died in 1972; George Taylor died in July 2006; and Blanche Jenkins Johnson died in the early 1980s.

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