After a long life of service and community involvement, Helen Pierce Taylor passed away at the age of 96 on Saturday, April 10 — marking what local leaders say is the loss of a true community pillar.
Born on July 1, 1924, Taylor spent most of her life traveling the U.S. and the world with her husband, William Morris Taylor. But in 1982 Taylor brought her loving community-minded spirit to Dawson County, immediately setting roots into the community that would be her home until her death this year.
During her time in Dawson County, Taylor was a part of dozens of community organizations and groups. She was an active member of Bethel United Methodist Church, a founding member of the Dawson County Historical and Genealogical Society, an ambassador of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, a charter member for the Dawson County Arts Council, a past president of the Dawson County Woman’s Club and a member of the Dawson County Senior Center Advisory Council, among many other roles she played.
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In addition to her community activism, Taylor wrote hundreds of columns for the Dawson County News over the years on life, Dawson County, the state of Georgia and every other topic imaginable. In 2014, just before Taylor’s 90th birthday, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners proclaimed June 19 as “Helen Taylor Day”.
Speaking to the DCN on Monday, multiple community members who knew Taylor well, shared remembrances of the 96-year-old as a truly amazing woman.
David Sanders, pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church, said that one of the things he remembers most about Taylor is that she was unafraid to speak her mind.
“She was a character; she would tell you what she thought and she would speak her mind, which was always a great thing because you knew that she was gonna be a straight shooter,” Sanders said.
According to Sanders, one of the ways Taylor would do this was to always voice any questions she had about his sermons, even in the middle of the service.
“One of the things I remember personally is that she would respond to my sermons when I would preach, so if there was something she had a question about in the middle of the sermon while I was preaching she would ask it right there in the middle of it all,” Sanders said. “So we would sometimes have a back-and-forth conversation right there, and I would love that.”
Taylor was an active member of many ministries at Bethel UMC, from Sunday morning services to Sunday school classes and everything in between. According to Sanders, Taylor remained strong in her faith until the day she passed away.
“The last thing she told me was ‘I’m gonna be here until God stops using me and then I know that’s when He’s gonna take me’, and I told her ‘look when it’s your time it’s gonna be your time’,” Sanders said. “And she was kinda satisfied with that answer; I know that she was ready to go and I think her impact in the community is going to be long-lasting.”
Ginny Greenwood, director of the Bowen Center for the Arts, said that Taylor would often come into the art center and give Greenwood advice.
“She was a huge support here and she was one of the founders that started Dawson County Arts Council which runs the Bowen Center for the Arts,” Greenwood said. “She was here at almost every exhibit and she would always come in and give me advice. I loved her.”
Dawson County Historical and Genealogical Society President Judy Harris said that she most remembers Taylor’s help with publicity for their organization.
“She was into everything; she made a big impact on the Historical Society and she was one of the ones who helped found it,” Harris said. “She was our publicity chairman up until she couldn’t.”
Harris said that Taylor was also incredibly smart and that she always wanted what was best for the community she lived in.
“She was one of the smartest people I’d ever met; my Aunt Dorothy was right next door to her and always said ‘that woman knows everything’,” Harris said. “She was just an amazing person; She was concerned with everything that went on and she wanted what was best for the county.”
Taylor was preceded in death by her husband, William Morris Taylor, who was also very involved in the Dawson County community. Taylor was also preceded in death by her son, Anthony “Tony” Taylor; her stepfather, H. C. Kitchens; her step-brothers, J. Paul Kitchens and Robert M. Kitchens; sisters-in-law, Maxine Holtzclaw and Wilda Bailey; and aunts, Opal Burnside and Sue Reed.
In a statement to the DCN, Taylor’s brother and sister-in-law, James and Jeannene Pierce, said that Dawson meant just as much to the Taylors as they did to the community.