WATERVILLE — A memorial service for Bill Taylor, a hippie turned businessman who never forgot the ideals of his generation, drew hundreds to Castonguay Square today.
Taylor died Sept. 3 at the age of 63 after a six-year battle with cancer.
Many who spoke this morning pointed out that many of those who, like Taylor, attended Woodstock, have gone on to become civic leaders, helping to shape the spirit of the city.
Taylor owned Framemakers, Waterville’s business of the year in 2006, and in 2007 he was recognized with the William R. Cotter Award by the Waterville Regional Arts and Community center for his contributions to the cultural and artistic development of the area.
The cover of the event program was dominated by a cartoon drawing of Taylor, wearing a colorful shirt and bell bottom pants, stroking a cat and standing in front of a rainbow.
While Taylor was described as many things — civic leader, entrepreneur, inventor, musician, artist, husband and friend — many returned to his early days in the ’60s as a long-haired adventurer whose life was full of hitchhiking, books on Zen, a stint in California with friends and that trip to the Woodstock music festival.
More than a dozen attendees of the “three days of peace, love and music” that came to define a generation were among the crowd, including Duane Wheeler, a friend of Taylor who today owns two Dairy Queens in Waterville.
“At 20, it didn’t seem as if we would make it to 30,” Wheeler said. “And at 30, it seemed like we would live forever.”
Wheeler, who was the best man at Taylor’s wedding 38 years ago, said that Taylor and his wife, Cathy, had a special marriage, a “’til-death-do-you-part marriage.”
Most of the memories revolved around Taylor’s nature, which was described, variously, as peaceful, gentle and loving.
Mayor Karen Heck said he distinguished himself with small acts of kindess.
“He was so extraordinary in the most ordinary of ways,” said Heck.
For example, Taylor was well known for sweeping the sidewalk not only in front of Framemakers, but in front of the neighboring businesses as well.
“Any one of us could do the things that he did,” she said. “The difference is, most of us don’t.”
Heck asked the crowd to remember Taylor by doing the things he did — picking up trash, chatting with people while sweeping, smiling at strangers and performing random acts of kindness.
Andrea Re, who sang the Rascal Flatts song “I Won’t Let Go” in Taylor’s honor, said that the free spirits of Taylor’s generation have created, in Waterville, a community that lives up to the ideals of compassion and artistic freedom championed in the ’60s.
“Waterville is a very special, amazing place,” Re said. “You’ll never find a more creative, talented, cohesive group of people.”
State Rep. Tom Longstaff, who officiated the event, said Taylor’s influence will live on.
“While he is no longer with us, the influence of his life, the relationships that he has formed, the values that were important to him and to us, although different, remain and will remain among us for years to come,” Longstaff said.
In front of the podium, where friends shared memories and talked about Taylor’s journey to what was called, in his obituary, “another Cosmos,” a small table displayed, next to a picture of Taylor, an item that he took particular pride in, a particular kind of cloth-covered box he invented in 2003, copyrighted, and called the “cosmic modulator.”
When an object is placed inside a cosmic modulator, mirror panels inside show multiple views of the object, reflected back and forth, to infinity.
Those who gathered to celebrate his life said that his memory, and small acts of kindness, would live on.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287