HONORING A TRUE AMERICAN HERO: LIFE CELEBRATION OF MY GRAMPS, KENNETH CLIFFORD TAYLOR
Five months ago, I had the privilege and honor of interviewing WWII B-29 Bombardier/Navigator, Businessman, Family Man & my Grandfather, Ken Taylor on a blog titled Life According to My 95-Year-Old Gramps. He shared great wisdom, witty stories & true perspective on living an extraordinary life filled with a positive mindset & wonderful values.
On December 21st, 2018, our beloved Gramps passed away. As devastating as that day was for so many, we were all incredibly grateful for our time with this truly magnetic individual. His Celebration of Life was set for February 23, 2019, at The American Legion in Lady Lake, Florida.
The morning of February 23rd, I woke up at my hotel in The Villages, Florida & made coffee. As I was enjoying my cup of joe, I started scrolling through one of my favorite apps called Timehop. The app collects old photos and posts from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and distributes the past images from that specific day. For example: Two years ago on this day, Five years ago on this day, etc. So here I was, the morning of Gramp’s Celebration of Life, scrolling through my Timehop when this photo popped up and sent goosebumps all over my body.
Crazy as heck coincidence? Maybe. But the strange thing is that for MONTHS I was searching for this photo and could not find it! And here, on the day of my amazing Gramp’s Celebration, it was hand delivered to me. Coincidence I think not. I could feel Gramps with me at that very moment.
The celebration began with nearly 100 people in attendance and a full military honors ceremony which was assisted by the Legion’s 24-member Honor Guard. There was then a Bible presentation, the flag folding ceremony performed by the Honor Guard and presented to my Grams, Leta Taylor. The flag was placed in her hands with the required wording, “On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation.” There was not a dry eye in the house.
After the last volley of rifle fire echoed through an open door, a bugler played the sorrowful notes of “Taps” and the Honor Guard filed out in pairs. The wonderful organizer, Joe Finch, then directed the family and friends outside for a truly extraordinary moment: a flyover of the missing man formation in honor of Ken Taylor.
At 11:33a airplanes flew out of the north and over The American Legion. The biplane broke from the formation and headed away to the west trailing smoke — a spectacular and proper observance for a bombardier of the 20th Air Force. Grandpa’s tour of duty lasted six months and 26 days. He flew 30 combat missions over Japan resulting in 428 combat hours.
After the flyover, family and friends celebrated Grandpa’s life by speaking at length about the influential and powerful impact he had on our lives. We shared tender moments, funny moments, and true “Ken Taylor” moments. The love and admiration everyone in the room had for this man was deeply felt by all in attendance.
I had shared one of my favorite memories of Gramps on my Instagram Stories, but after thinking about it, I’ve decided I would love to share the full speech here. It was definitely a rollercoaster of emotions but the values & principles Grandpa taught me deserve to be recognized.
Before Gramps passed, he left with me a list of 12 songs that he wanted played at his Celebration of Life. He was deeply passionate about music and wanted to set the ambiance for everyone to enjoy. After the speeches, a meaningful slideshow of our favorite memories was played and during lunch, we put on the playlist hand selected by Gramps for everyone to enjoy. The songs included:
When You’re Smiling by Frank Sinatra
The Good Life by Frank Sinatra
This Love of Mine by Frank Sinatra
Once In A While by Nat King Cole
Dream by Frank Sinatra
Night and Day by Frank Sinatra
Embraceable You by Frank Sinatra
It Had to Be You by Frank Sinatra
At Last by Dianne Reeves & Lou Rawls
Moonglow by Billie Holiday
Stardust by Nat King Cole
You’ll Never Know by Eydie Gorme
I know Gramps was looking down on his Celebration of Life with his trademark grin and truly proud of the event that took place in his honor. Thank you, Gramps, for 31 magical years. Knowing you was an extraordinary adventure and you will forever be a role model that I aspire to be like every day. Rest easy, my sweet, sweet angel. <3