Daily Local News, West Chester, Chester County, Pa
The Honorable Elinor Z. Taylor of W. Chester
Saturday, July 31, 2010
The Honorable Elinor Z. Taylor, 89, of West Chester, died Tuesday July 27, 2010, at the Treasure Coast Hospice House in Stuart, Fla.
She was the wife of the late William M. Taylor.
Mrs Taylor was born on April 18, 1921, in Norristown, daughter of the late Harold I. and Ruth (Rahn) Zimmerman.
She was a 1939 graduate of West Chester High School. In 1943, she graduated from West Chester University, where she later received a Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa. In 1958 she earned a master's in education from Temple University. She also attended Columbia University and the University of Delaware.
Elinor started her career as an educator in the Ridley Park, Delaware County, schools but in 1946 she got a teaching position at West Chester Senior High School as a coach and physical education teacher. In 1955, Elinor started teaching health classes at West Chester State College and soon became an associate professor in the health and physical education department. She became particularly well known in field hockey circles and was named a National Honorary Hockey Official. Elinor became The assistant dean of women in 1968, the acting dean of students affairs in 1969 and from 1970 to 1975 she was dean of administration. She helped found the American Association of University Women at West Chester State University.
The Honorable Elinor Z. Taylor started her political career by running for West Chester Borough Councilperson, she was the first woman to serve on the Borough Council. She was first elected to represent the 156th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1976. With the help of friends and her natural abilities, Elinor learned to become an effective legislator and she served on the subcommittee for higher education. She was elected chairperson of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) in 1995. And on January 23, 2003, PHEAA passed a resolution naming the largest PHEAA building the Elinor Z. Taylor Headquarters Building. Elinor was also elected majority caucus secretary in 1995 and Republican Caucus chairwoman in 2003.
Mrs. Taylor served 30 years in the House of Representatives, becoming the longest serving woman in its history. With her health deteriorating, she retired to Florida prior to the 2006 elections.
She leaves a daughter, Barbara Taylor Zarrella of Bethlehem, Conn.; five grandchildren, Kelly Ashworth of Baton Rouge, La., Ryan Osborn of New York, N.Y., Catherine, Joseph and Jenna Zarrella all of Bethlehem, Conn.; and two great-grandchildren; a sister, Ellen Z. Hines of Arizona; a nephew Eric Hines of Arizona; a niece Brenda Proulx of Rhode Island and a niece, Sarah Finnaren of West Chester.
Relatives and friends are invited to her Funeral Service 2:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6, at First Presbyterian Church, 130 W. Miner St., West Chester.
Interment will be in Birmingham-Lafayette Cemetery, West Chester.
Visitation will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5, at DellaVecchia, Reilly, Smith & Boyd Funeral Home, 410 N. Church St., West Chester, 610-696-1181, www.DellaFH.com
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Honorable Elinor Z. Taylor Charitable Foundation, c/o CCCF, 28 W. Market St., West Chester, PA 19382.
Elinor Z. Taylor dies at 89
Forthright lawmaker was re-elected 14 times as a state representative for the 156th Legislative District
Thursday, July 29, 2010
By MICHAEL P. RELLAHAN, Staff Writer
Elinor Z. Taylor, who went from the leafy campus of West Chester University to the halls of power in Harrisburg, where she served with a feisty spirit in the state House of Representatives for 30 years, has died. She was 89.
Taylor, who retired from public life in 2006, had been in failing health for some time. She fell over the weekend, and passed away on Tuesday at her home in Stuart, Fla.
"In many ways, she was a pioneer for women in the political sphere, particularly here in Chester County," said Bill Lamb, the former chairman of the state and county Republican parties, who worked with Taylor for nearly three decades. "She was quite a force, somebody who had to be reckoned with in the state Legislature."
"We are very saddened by this," said Dick Yoder, the former West Chester mayor who first met the woman he called "Zim" as a young coach at West Chester University, then a state college, in 1962, when she was a director of women's athletics. The nickname came from her maiden name, Zimmerman.
"She was a very passionate person," Yoder said. "She was a very strong advocate. If you were a friend of Elinor Taylor, you had a great advocate on your side."
Taylor served on West Chester Borough Council from 1972 to 1976 while an administrator at the college, and was elected to her first term as state representative for the 156th Legislative District in 1976, covering the area from West Chester to West Goshen, East Goshen and West Whiteland. She was re-elected 14 times and became one of the higher-ranking members of the GOP caucus in that body by the time she left.
Her trademark interests in the House were higher education and constituent services. She was a longtime member and chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) board of directors, and left a legacy there nearly unmatched.
"My fondest memory of Elinor is when the PHEAA building in Harrisburg was named after her," said Joseph "Skip" Brion, the chairman of the Chester County Republican Committee. "That was a great day for her and a great honor for Chester County. Her voice on education in the state was one of her great accomplishments. She helped people understand how important it is
to make sure our youth is educated.
"Elinor was part of our community," Brion said. "Elinor was everywhere."
Taylor was known for being feisty and strong-willed, and someone who could push back when she felt assailed. She took criticism early in her Harrisburg career for her role in the dismissal of a president at West Chester, Charles Mayo, in 1982 but never apologized for the effort she made to, in her opinion, safeguard the school she was tied to.
Mayo's supporters viewed his firing as part of a campaign against him by GOP representatives to keep control of campus affairs, and as payback for firing Taylor in 1976. She and members of the school's Board of Trustees saw it as a way to reverse administrative failures.
"She loved the college," said Yoder. "She taught there and was very passionate about it. Some people viewed that differently than we did, and that came out in the Mayo affair. But she took offense to some of the things that were going on there at the time, and worked to fix that."
Taylor was born in 1921 in Norristown. Her father, Harold I. Zimmerman, was a football coach at West Chester High School, from which she graduated in 1939. She received her bachelor's degree from West Chester State College in 1943 and her master's degree in education from Temple University in 1958. She also studied at the University of Delaware and Columbia University.
She taught physical education at West Chester State College, and moved up through the ranks of the administration until she was named dean of students. Yoder said that the national reputation the school attained in women's athletics was due in no small part to Taylor's efforts in that regard.
"She was nationally known in her early days for her support of women's athletics," he said, demanding that the women's teams be taken as seriously as the men's teams, a radical idea in the 1960s and early 1970s, prior to the implementation of Title IX. "She was a great and powerful voice for that, and one of the staunchest supporters" of the programs.
Yoder also said that Taylor continued to work for improvement of facilities and property at West Chester, and was partially responsible for the growth that took place there in the 1980s and 1990s.
Yoder said the force of her personality was such that he was not surprised that she was able to make a place for herself in politics, even though she was somewhat of a lonely figure when she first arrived in the state capital. When she arrived in Harrisburg for the first time in 1977, Taylor was one of the few females in the state House of Representatives.
"When I went to Harrisburg, there were three Republican women and six Democratic women, and most of the six were wives of legislators," said Taylor at the time she announced her retirement in 2006 because of failing health. Despite being in the minority, Taylor's personality caught everyone's eye. "I spoke my piece from the time I arrived in Harrisburg," she said. "They liked me."
Despite her position as a pioneer in women's politics in the state, Taylor was hardly a liberal when it came to social issues. She was a conservative politician and stayed true to the GOP's issues throughout her career, although she was far more vocal on education issues and local Chester County matters than on hot-button social causes.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th, of West Whiteland, said he had a special perspective on Taylor, finding himself allied with and against Taylor at various times when he was Chester County Democratic Committee chairman and county commissioner.
"Beyond politics, we had a unique relationship because she hired me at West Chester in the 1970s," he said. "We knew each other from before we were each ever active in politics. We were colleagues and we were friends."
Taylor served for years as a member of the House Committee on Education, and in 1995 took the position of Majority Caucus Secretary. Lamb said she was a valued member of former House Speaker Matt Ryan's leadership team in the 1990s.
Lamb and Yoder and others who spoke of her mentioned that Taylor was far from a shrinking violet when it came to expressing her opinions.
"She was quite a force, somebody to be reckoned with in the state Legislature," said Lamb, who more than once found himself in the eye of her wrath. "She wasn't hesitant to call you up and give you a piece of her mind, and we had a number of disagreements. But we always worked things out.
"She could be a tough cookie, no doubt about it," he said.
Brion said he remembered meeting Taylor for the first time at a GOP dinner in 1977 when he was a young volunteer in the party. It was an awakening. "She told us exactly how she expected us volunteers to act, and how we were supposed to represent the Republican Party," he said.
Yoder, acknowledging her forthrightness, said it was part of her charm. "Elinor Taylor was not wishy-washy," he said. "But most of us enjoyed that. You always knew where she was coming from."
"Elinor was tough," said Dinniman. "But I always knew that if she agreed with me, she wasn't afraid to cross political lines and say so. She was direct, and she didn't take prisoners. She would give it, but she could also take it. It was a very enjoyable relationship."
Sarah Taylor-Finnaren, her longtime office assistant, aide and niece by marriage, agreed that she could be temperamental, but said there was more than just bluster. "She was feisty, but she was true to her constituents. I liked her laugh, and I liked to share a good baseball game with her. She loved her Phillies. I will miss her."
Announcing her retirement in 2006, she said, "My approach has always been the idea that I could make a difference. And as long as I have been able to do that, you end the day with great satisfaction. I'm very pleased to look back on what I consider to be a very productive experience."
Taylor was preceded in death by her husband, William M. Taylor, and by a sister, Janet Zimmerman. She is survived by a daughter, Barbara Zarrella in Connecticut, and a sister, Ellen Hines, in Arizona.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Reilly DellaVecchia Smith & Boyd Funeral Home of West Chester.
William Morrison Taylor
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