Alex Taylor was a man of habit. Whether he lived in the Mondex with his sister, more than 10 miles from downtown Bunnell, or in the room he rented the last few months of his life in Palm Terrace, a few blocks from downtown, he would get up before dawn and ride his bike to look for day labor in Bunnell. When he found some, he’d put in a day’s work. When he didn’t, he’d ride to the Methodist Church on North Pine Street, have coffee, help out, talk with Gwen Barath, the church secretary, or any of the regulars in the church’s ministry, which pays particular attention to the poor.
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That’s what Taylor was doing Tuesday morning around 6, when it was still pitch black (the sun wouldn’t come up for more than an hour later). He’d gotten ready for the day and biked out of Palm Terrace to head for downtown, a short bike ride west. Something protruding from a vehicle struck him with great force on the back of the head. It’s not yet known what, or by whom. Investigators’ attention is focusing on one of those mirrors protruding from a school bus, but they’re not yet certain. Taylor was killed. He was 54.
Bunnell’s First United Methodist Church, as close to a permanent home as Taylor had had in the last couple of years, will hold a memorial service for him Sunday, Oct. 2, at 2 p.m. He will be buried at Espanola Cemetery. The service will be led by First United Pastor Beth Gardner, who’d come to know Taylor, whom she summed up as “a gentle servant,” in the last 18 months to two years.
“At first it was just through our community dinner on Wednesdays, where we have the dinner and then discuss a Bible passage that is for the next Sunday’s worship time,” Gardner said. “In conversation he didn’t often share out loud in the group, but he would frequently come and talk one on one with me or different people. He was very familiar with Scriptures.”
Gardner spoke from Kansas City this afternoon, where she was attending a conference: she learned about Taylor’s death the morning he was killed, when she was on the way to the airport. A day before his death, she was in the car with Barath, going to someone’s house for lunch. “and we happened to see him crossing the street and we waved at him, and, you know, we thought we were waving hello, but it turns out, we’re waving goodbye because that was the last time that we saw him,” Gardner said, citing “so many synchronicities” that took place in the days preceding his death. “Just like Wednesday a week ago I had a chance to say thank you Alex for anticipating, being so helpful, it’s really appreciated.” That was one of his characteristic qualities: he looked for what had to be done around him and did it without being asked.
Less than a week before he died, he was at the church’s community dinner. Barath had just learned to wield her cell phone as a camera. She took a picture of Taylor. “He was a shy man and I had a hard time convincing him to let me take it,” Barath said. “I am so glad I did and the family was pleased as they did not have a recent picture of Alex.”
Taylor, who was becoming more involved in Sunday school recently, had a t-shirt he often wore: “Got Jesus?,” an image that pleased Garner particularly when he sat in front of the church with it on.
“Folks that are a part of our community,” Gardner said about a lot of people the Methodist Church’s ministry caters to, “are people that struggle with addictions, and Alex did not. That’s I think probably one of the things that hurt us in this loss, is that Alex was one of the ones that didn’t have that struggle. He was always anticipating, so he could just be more present and more just a part of the community in a real way because he didn’t have that struggle.” Some of the people he spent time with would pressure him. “He always pulled back when they kind of would get on to him because he wasn’t either a part of that, or he would just try to put them on higher ground.”
Gardner has little patience for the sort of “if-you-die-tonight-do-you-know-where-you’re-going” type of formula when it comes to death. But she stressed another side of Taylor’s character that gave him a sense of serenity with whatever happens. “Alex wasn’t afraid of death,” Garner said, “so that has given a lot of us that comfort, knowing he had a relationship with God, and that gave him comfort, and that was a good thing.”
Alex Rettan Taylor was born in Bath, N.Y. On Sept. 7, 1957. He was one of six children. He never married or had any children. He was preceded in death by his father Henry Edwin Taylor Sr. of Bradford, N.Y. and his Mother Rose (Pryslopski) Taylor of Corning, N.Y. He is survived by one brother, Henry Edwin Taylor Jr. of Painted Post, N.Y., and four Sisters: Rose Marie (Taylor) Osborne of Rock Springs, N.Y., Carolyn Elizabeth (Taylor) Waterman of Beaver Dam, N.Y., Mary Anna (Taylor) Buckner of Bunnell, and Lillian May (Taylor) Cosmos of Pinellas Park, Fla.
The family has few means and is getting some assistance for Alex Taylor’s services through Flagler County’s social assistance. That’s not likely to cover all expenses. Donations are being accepted at Bunnell’s First United Methodist Church at 205 North Pine Street, or call 386/437-3258.