Author Archive: Tom

Funeral for My Mother

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Casket

Joclair Ellenberg Taylor – 1928-2014

Yesterday we held the funeral for my mother. It was a time of grieving, but also of celebration. Now, with both parents gone, our large family feels somewhat adrift. However, we’ve always been very close, and I’m sure we will come to rely on each other even more as the days pass.

I want to express my sincerest thanks for all of the warm greetings and condolences from my friends, family and colleagues. Even if I haven’t had a chance to respond personally, know that I appreciate each one that has reached out to us during this time. (more…)

Goodbye, Mom

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Mom on Harley 2

Mom on a Harley photo by Lauren Stines

At 2:10 this morning my mother, Joclair Ellenberg Taylor, lost her battle with cancer. She passed quietly in the early morning, surrounded by four of her seven children at her home in Prosperity, SC. I was not able to be with her at the end, but had been there earlier in the evening. Mom was 85. She now joins my father, Houston Taylor, who passed away in 2011.

Several weeks ago Mom had some cancerous places removed from her skin. These were found to be melanoma. Further scans showed that the cancer had spread, and that there were large tumors in her lungs. Rather than undergo aggressive treatment, at her age Mom decided to let things progress naturally. In early July we were given a 4-6 month prognosis.

Even though she wouldn’t fight the cancer, she wasn’t one to sit idly by, either. Ever the adventurer, Mom put together her bucket list, which included going on one last road trip, and maybe even getting back to do some kayaking.

Last week my brother Stephen picked up Mom, his daughter Lauren, and my sister Glynda, and they embarked on trip to New York City. The trip was a winding affair, with stops to visit other grandchildren along the way, and a drive through Amish country. As they were approaching New York, Mom slipped into silence, and begin exhibiting stroke-like symptoms. It turns out that there were also tumors in the brain that had begun to hemorrhage.

Joclair Ellenberg

One harrowing night in a New York hospital, and Mom seemed to make an astounding recovery. The family made it back to Prosperity in record time, and we were able to talk with her about the trip and all she had seen. Unfortunately, the tumors took their toll, and we spent the last week tending to my mother in home hospice. While I was not able to take her kayaking, I am ever so thankful that she was able to take one last grand adventure with her family.

In addition to the cancer, this past year had been a difficult one health-wise for my mother. She had fallen last fall, and spent several weeks in rehabilitation with broken bones. However, she took to her recovery like a champ and made amazing progress. Add to that recovery from a previous stroke and broken hip from many years ago, and her strength and resiliency is nothing short of amazing.

…and it had to be. Taking care of seven children was a hard task, but this small woman was always up to the challenge. Often with limited resources, she would fight fiercely for her children and grandchildren, making sure we had food on the table, clothing, and anything else we needed.

That fierce nature was combined with an adventuresome spirit and wicked sense of humor. Mom loved to go on rambling drives, and if a dirt road was involved, all the better. She also loved to sit in public places and “people watch.” However, even with an eye for the foibles of humanity, she also had great compassion, and would often express how her heart ached when she couldn’t correct every injustice, or help everyone she encountered who was in need.

Mother herself was the youngest of a very large family of nine – three boys and six girls. She was raised in Ninety-Six, South Carolina, the daughter of William Thomas and Annie Smith Ellenberg. Her father had passed away when she was 15, so at an early age she took on farm responsibilities, with my equally amazing and fierce grandmother as a role model. She met my father at Emmanuel College and married in 1947, after he had returned from WWII.

Mom and Dad at the beach

Mom was a talented piano player and musician. I always envied her ability to improvise on the piano while playing hymns. She taught piano, and encouraged each of us to pursue music in one form or another. Our family gatherings have always included music.

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Mom is survived by two sisters, Grace and Lois, her three sons, four daughters, twelve grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, and grand in-laws.

There is so much more to write, but no way possible to sum up such an amazing life in one short blog post. So, I’ll just stop here and say thank you for an amazing life, and for being such a wonderful role model. We will miss you more than we can ever say, and hope to see you again.

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Mom and Dad on balcony at beach

Solo Oolenoy in a Problematic Boat

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Lake Oolenoy Red Emphasis

Red Pungo 140 on Lake Oolenoy

In the fleet of kayaks I have in my yard is one red Wilderness Systems Pungo 140. It’s got a problem, or, several of them, really. First is a question of ownership.  Chip purchased this boat from Confluence five years ago at the Friends and Family sale. Over the course of the years, he traded it to a colleague for another boat. However, the colleague never collected the boat from my yard, and eventually moved to another town. There it has sat for five years. While I often enumerate it with my fleet, I still consider it Chip’s boat.

More importantly, though, is the condition of the boat.  Some of the kayaks at the Confluence sale were factory seconds.  For example, the Pungo 120 I got at the same sale had the webbing for the seat straps sliced.  No biggy, but I had to replace them. 

To all outward appearances the Pungo 140 looks like a great kayak…

Lake Oolenoy-11 (more…)

Fourth of July 2014

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Canada Day Fireworks

OK, It’s not Fourth of July, but Canada Day Fireworks photo by Ben_Senior

At some point I’m going to stop beginning my posts with “It’s been a crazy week.” It starts sounding like Garrison Keillor’s standard “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” But…it has been a crazy week, topped off by a holiday weekend.

Chorale Concert

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the collaboration between the Furman Lakeside Concert Band and the Greenville Chorale. It’s of our most popular concerts, certainly the best attended. We had rehearsals Monday night, then Tuesday with the band. The concert was Thursday. (more…)

Garlic Shrimp a la Lazy Goat

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Garlic Shrimp a la Lazy Goat

Garlic Shrimp a la Lazy Goat

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and we’re still not done. I had big plans to post a 1 year review of retirement. That didn’t happen. I had several photo treks I wanted to take that didn’t get taken. It’s been a week of unforeseen circumstances – the death and funeral of an elderly uncle out of town, and now some serious health issues in our family. This is also a concert week for us – the Chorale is performing a Patriotic concert on July 3 by the Furman Lake, so we’ve had evening rehearsals for that, too.

Sometime in the midst of all this craziness we managed to make it to one of our favorite restaurants, The Lazy Goat. We have several favorite dishes, one of which is the garlic shrimp with tomatoes and arugula. we liked it so much that Laura wanted to see if she could reverse engineer the dish and cook it at home. Here’s our first attempt. (more…)

Paddling to Andersonville

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Paddling to Andersonville Island

Andersonville Island, Lake Hartwell

Ever since I found out about it I’ve wanted to visit the location of Andersonville. I was finally given that opportunity this week, as fellow paddlers Alan Russell and Jim Leavell joined me for an early week trek out to the island. With this week’s paddle I was able to add another check to my list of South Carolina ghost towns.

Stephen and I had done some previous scouting in this area. Stephen’s brother-in-law, Jim, owns a barbecue place nearby, and he provided some valuable information about the area. Since that time I had been looking for the optimum launch site for a trek over to Andersonville. (more…)

Musgrove Mill and Laurens County

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Horseshoe Falls-007

Horseshoe Falls on Cedar Shoals Creek

A couple of weeks ago my friend Ken Cothran and I were discussing the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site in Laurens County. It seems neither of us had been there in quite awhile, and we wanted to return to do some photography. Even though it was supposed to be scorching hot, we set out early Tuesday morning to see what we could find.

Our route from Clemson took us down Mauldin Road. Ken had not seen the improvements to the Lake Connestee park, so we took a brief detour past the old mill and dam site. I managed to capture a great blue heron with my long lens.

Laurens County Ramble-002

We drove by the old Macbee Chapel, but then from Connestee drove pretty much straight down to the site, taking the Highway 56 exit from I-26 at Clinton. (more…)

The Long and Lonely Santee with Lowcountry Unfiltered

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Santee River with Lowcountry Unfiltered-095

It was a second Saturday. That means another paddling trip with Lowcountry Unfiltered. I had driven down the night before and had stayed with my two brothers in North Charleston, and on this fine Saturday morning we would brave the wilds of the lower Santee River from McConnell Landing to Hampton Island.

Some how we managed to roll out of bed fairly early, despite a huge meal at a Brazilian steakhouse, and nightcaps and joking until late at night. Our convoy headed to the put-in, first crossing the Cooper River on I-526, then taking what must be the straightest road in South Carolina, Highway 41, across the Francis Marion National Forest.

The problem with these trips is that we ALWAYS pass cool stuff en route to the put in. It’s usually early morning and there is a mist or cool light for just the right photography. This time we passed old stores and churches and other things that would normally have me stopping. I keep thinking “I’ve got to come back this way,” but it never seems to work out. Oh well. (more…)

From Monck’s Corner to Brazil

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Saint Thomas Church-009

Saint Thomas Church, AKA The Brick Church, AKA The White Church

This weekend was a Lowcountry Unfiltered weekend, and we had a paddling trip planned for the Lower Santee River. I decided to head down early and take some photographs in the wilds of Francis Marion Forest and Berkeley and Charleston Counties.  My brothers, Stephen and Houston, would be down later that afternoon, and we would see what trouble we could create.

I had marked a series of locations in my GPS.  Most of these were historic churches, but there were a few other locations I wanted to check out.  With the car loaded with kayak and photography gear, I headed on down Friday morning.

I got away later than I had thought, and traffic was heavy, but I made it down there right about noon.  Lunch was a sandwich I brought along so I could stick with my diet.  I had that along the banks of the Tailrace Canal, just south of Moncks Corner.

Tailrace Canal-002 (more…)

Furman Lakeside in Summer

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Cygnets from Black Swans

Well after that last “fat” revelation, I figured it’s time for more photography. Life can’t be spent entirely in the gym, so it was time to get out and take some pictures.

I headed up to Furman (where I joined Laura for a low calorie lunch), and we decided to walk down to the lake. There were reports of new baby swans, so I carried my long lens. We didn’t see the swans at first, but I decided to use the lens with its narrow depth of field to take some photos of the flowers in bloom around the student center and bookstore.

Furman-10
Furman-6 (more…)

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