Remembering Tom Taylor

NOTE: We learned recently that Tom Taylor, former Generations United Seniors4Kids staff member, died in the fall of 2020 at age 93. This is a tribute to his legacy.

By Donna Butts, Executive Director

Tom Taylor surrounded by children during a visit to a Pennsylvania early childhood center.
Tom Taylor surrounded by children during a visit to a Pennsylvania early childhood center.

He walked into Generations United looking dapper, a gentleman full of energy, wisdom and purpose. At 80 years old Tom Taylor had decided to come out of retirement and continue his work on behalf of children. He applied, and we happily hired him to work with our new Seniors4Kids initiative. After all, who better to encourage older adults to raise their voices on behalf of investments in children?

Tom spent his life doing just that.

Early in his career, Tom was selected as the first director of the National Child Day Care Association. He was one of the founders of the Head Start Program and went on to advocate for funding and policies that resulted in millions of dollars of support for early childhood education. One capstone he took pride in was being responsible for getting the first childcare center located in a federal office building. Without knowing it, he became an early pioneer for the concept of intergenerational shared sites; sites that break out of the traditional age-segregated use of space and place.

Tom was a powerful combination of pure grace, street smarts and charm. He managed many diverse personalities and always stayed focused on his goal of paving a better way for children. This was never more apparent than in his love of his own family. For example, for one Generations United summer staff barbecue, Tom brought his grandson Keith. It wasn’t long before they were both out on the Potomac River in kayaks. Keith must have been about 12; Tom was 82.

On a visit to a Pennsylvania early childhood center, Tom simply shined as he interacted with the children. I asked if I could take a photo and the children ran to cuddle close with the older visitor in their classroom. It was as though they intuitively knew that he had their backs and was their special friend. Tom’s smile lit up the room.

As a staff, we valued the wisdom that came from his years of experience and leading organizations. It seemed whenever we problem solved as a team, Tom was the first one to identify a solution. During our discussion over lunch, Tom would share stories such as when he organized social workers for the March on Washington and heard Rev. Martin Luther King speak at the Lincoln Memorial. He made history real.

When Tom turned 85, he came into my office and told me he thought it was time for him to retire again. We sadly relinquished him of his daily duties but never of his role as a beloved member of the Generations United family. Tom always came to our events, cheering us on as we released new reports and advocated for policies, programs and funding to strengthen services and supports for our bookend generations-our oldest and youngest.

Tom Taylor was a blessing to work with and a joy to call friend. His life was long, service-driven, and well-lived. May we all be so fortunate. Thank you, Tom, you understood we are stronger together and made us a better team because of it.

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Generations United

National nonprofit that improves children, youth and older adults' lives through intergenerational programs and policies. Why? Because we're stronger together.