Like so many in the valley and on the West Slope, I already miss Gene Taylor.
He was, in my mind, my "other" brother.
Brother one, Jim, thinks the same.
Everyone in the area knows at least one story about Gene.
Let me share a brief one.
The short version of what became a lifelong friendship started thanks to my mom, Helen. She was booked for a summer session at Greeley to finish her teacher's certification. Jim and I had no place to live that summer.
The Taylor family took us in. That summer we really got to know Gene.
It was a great summer, and Gene and his parents sparked my interest in learning how to compete at sports and in life, not just play at them.
The Taylors' home was that grey-shingled one still standing of on the northeast corner of Seventh and Patterson. It had been built, Gene told me, by Sentinel owners Walter and Kathie Walker for their son, Pres, and his high school sweetheart wife.
Gene's dad was Dr. Owen Taylor, an eye-ear-nose-throat specialist at the old Mesa Memorial Hospital. Everyone knows Gene carried on that legacy with a lifetime of work with Community Hospital.
Dr. Taylor was an exceptional fly fisherman, with a cabin on the Gunnison that disappeared when Blue Mesa Reservoir was built. Gene Taylor stores carried loads of fishing tackle though the years, and taught many how to fish. This was another generation building on a foundation already in place. In Gene's case, that continued for 60 years.
Gene, Jim and I went to school together, played sports together (with Gene far more talented than me) and had kids who played and schooled together. Gene and his family bought a Mantey Heights home; the Ken Johnson family also bought their first home there.
After college Gene bought the Treece Sporting Goods business on Main Street; I was on the Daily Sentinel staff as a reporter at the time and wrote the short story of the purchase. Gene nurtured his business as it grew into bigger "one-stop" stores. He pioneered the "big box" stores that have come to dominate retailing today, but did it with a personal touch. I stayed with the Sentinel as we did hundreds of stories about Gene as a businessman, sports mentor and community leader.
Early on my "other" brother mentored me and we wound up as the only two freshmen on the high school baseball varsity. Gene lettered, I didn't.
Gene's baseball future went forward solidly. His major league baseball career ended with a broken hand.
By some eerie coincidence, while just a freshman hotshot, my budding baseball career was ended by a badly cut hand. It found a broken bottle in the slimy bottom of that old ditch near the Lincoln Park Barn one day after varsity practice. An older and lots bigger team member thought I was a tad too glib and needed to lose my trousers and take a dip, just for the fun of it.
He had all the fun. I got wet and muddy and embarrassed.
And Dr. Taylor stitched up my hand, for free.
Following his dad's example, Gene built his life around giving to others.
Maybe that's why visiting Gene at Hospice (built on land he donated to them) recently was bittersweet; you knew his health problems, as did he. But what he talked about was getting well enough to get back up on the Uncompahgre to his cabin.
And back into community action.
Ken is the founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former publisher of The Daily Sentinel.