It is about 1981. Gene Taylor is around the same age as I am now. 50-ish. I am managing Marios pizzaria when Gene brings his sons and Jenny in to eat, and to meet me. Jen and I have been going out for a year or so by now. Gene extends his hand and says “Nice to meet you”. I, being all of 20, return this nice greeting with a selfish and sarcastic retort that even today embarrasses me. “Most people think that” is my reply.
Forward to winter 1982. Jenny and I are living together in Grand Junction now and I am spending most of the winter working up in the Snowmass, CO store. My mom has a minor emergency of some sort and needs to contact me. She knows that Jenny and I are living together, but Gene doesn’t. She calls the store, gets Gene on the phone, and asks him for Jen and my new phone number. Gene asks “Doesn’t he live with you?” and Mom says “He and Jen have been living together for 6 months now!” Gene doesn’t talk to me for a month.
Forward to winter of 1983/84. I feel it is time to ask my best friend to marry me. But I need to ask her father for her hand in marriage. This is a very daunting task, and frankly, I’m intimidated to ask him. A lot intimidated! He drives up to Snowmass for the weekend to check on the store and mingle with friends he has up there. I ask him to a local bar that afternoon, buy him a beer, and ask him for his daughters hand. He takes a long drink. Sets the beer down and looks at me. “Yes.” Then he gives me the best ‘how to be a man’ talk I ever heard. I can’t remember the exact words, but I sure can remember the intent.
Long forward to 2002. I have worked for the Taylors for 25 years. I have done everything I feel I can for them and I have been talking to a local businessman who wants to throw a lot of money my way to run his store for him. Its a good offer and I’m really struggling with the decision. Gene comes out to the Fruita store I opened for the Taylors and we sit down at a small table and start to have our lunch. I bring up this opportunity to him. I expect a little fire and brimstone, but instead he gets a pad of paper and we fill out a classic pro/con list. Gene actually supported and encouraged the move. Not in any way to get me out, but he saw my need to expand and try new things out from under the Taylor umbrella.
It is now fall of 2011. Gene has had a bout with strokes, infections, heart problems and all the other ailments that come with getting old. During a brief time when there is no one else around we have a talk that centers on ‘quality of life’. He says that he doesn’t want to be bedridden for a lengthy time, or hooked up to machines to keep him alive. We talk about visits to his cabin, and remember fun times past. It is our last personal conversation. He remains bedridden at Hospice for the next 5 months and passes away in March of 2012.
Gene Taylor will be remembered for a lot of things by the general public. His successful businesses, his philanthrophy, his baseball life. He will be remembered by his close friends and family for his loyalty, his love of life, his honesty. I will miss my friend and father-in-law. I will miss his crooked smile and mussed up hair. Here’s to you Gene. All my love, Scott.