Gertrude Woodard "Trudy" Taylor dies at 92

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Trudy Taylor. – Photo by Liz Witham

Trudy Taylor of Stonewall Pond, Chilmark, died peacefully and comfortably in her sleep at her home on Saturday, Oct. 10. She spent the last days of her life surrounded by family and friends who loved her.

She was born Nov. 7, 1922, and lived until a month shy of her 93rd birthday.

Trudy considered herself a Down East Yankee, being born and bred on the marshes of Ring’s Island, in the Merrimack River in Salisbury. Her father Henry was a fisherman and a boat builder, and the unofficial mayor of Ring’s Island. Her mother was a sweet whistling songstress who created a beautiful home for her family, with braided rugs made from their old woolen clothes and colorful and cheerful hooked rugs for every surface of their floors.

Trudy followed in her parents’ footsteps, with her own special spin. She loved the sea and she loved to sail. She crossed the Atlantic twice on small sailboats and once on a tall ship, the Regina Maris, entering New York Harbor in the parade of boats for our country’s bicentennial.

Trudy had a little rowboat on her beloved Stonewall Pond, and provided sailing and boating opportunities for her sons and daughter. Her love of the sea was passed on to them in great measure.

She was politically astute. She had a fierce sense of the need for fairness and justice. She was an adventurer, a traveler, an artist, and a truth teller. Her frankness was an inspiration to many, and difficult for some. She was a storyteller. She was a singer, painter, craftsperson. Pity the dear souls who tried to make her a clam chowder! Man, could she cook.

She was a gifted gardener. Her Stonewall Pond home garden won several prizes for its beauty and collection of exotic and diverse plantings. That she made it work on the sands of her little patch was no mean feat — she fed the soil with everything organic from her home, including but not limited to the silk nightgowns that weren’t holding up any more for their intended use.

She spent many summers painting with her friend Nancy Lundy in Aspen, Colo. She burst into song at the drop of a hat. In recent years she held court every Sunday at State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury.

Her children all grew up with the belief that anything was possible. She provided for them endless opportunities for musical instruction, and they are all independent artists with many gifts to share.

There wasn’t anything that she tried that she didn’t master. Her artistic flair was manifest in her home; the furnishings, the table she set, the food she served, the art with which she surrounded herself. She was a creative knitter, making up her own styles and patterns. She designed clothes that were fashioned from materials that she collected on her travels, and she had a store in Chilmark for a few summers where she had these for sale. She wasn’t quick with a compliment, so when you got one you knew she meant it.

Trudy attended Newburyport High. She walked into the principal’s office one day and said she wasn’t coming any more. It just didn’t fit her particular fancy. Throughout her high school years she studied voice at the New England Conservatory, and she moved to Boston to attend Miss Child’s School, where she continued those studies along with courses in science, literature, and art. While in Boston she met the love of her life at a party where there were many handsome young medical students in attendance. Her chance meeting with Ike Taylor turned into a love that lasted her lifetime. They married and had five children in six years, and her life was filled with the running of their household, the designing and building of their home, and the care of her children. They moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., where Dr. Taylor taught medicine and became the dean of the UNC Medical School in 1964. They raised their five kids there, and visited New England, her home base, in the summers.

Early in the 1950s, she discovered Martha’s Vineyard, and every summer after that the family returned. In 1964 the Taylors purchased the little rental cottage where they had spent their summers. Trudy moved into that home year-round in 1970, and lived there ever since.

She traveled extensively throughout the world, trekking the Himalayas, touring Ireland, driving alone across America, sailing to the Galapagos Islands. But her absolute favorite place in this world was China. She went there in the mid-70s as part of the first wave of foreign visitors, and she went back six times.

She was a powerful force and one of a kind.

She is predeceased by her ex-husband, Dr. Isaac Taylor, and her eldest son Alex Taylor. She is survived by her sons James, Livingston, and Hugh Taylor, and her daughter Kate Taylor; her grandchildren James R. Taylor, Sally Taylor, Ben Taylor, Henry Taylor, Rufus Taylor, Elizabeth Witham, Aretha Brown, Alexandra Taylor, and Isaac Taylor; and her great-grandchildren Claudia Taylor, Paige Taylor, Bodhi Bragonier, Fiona May Brown, Zuri Elizabeth Brown, Olive McPhail, Violet McPhail, Emmett Taylor, and Tillie Taylor.

There will be a gathering to celebrate Trudy’s life on Wednesday, Oct. 28, from 4 to 6 pm at the Chilmark Community Center. Please bring stories and, if you like, sweets. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Planned Parenthood.