Montclair High great Bruce Taylor leaves behind a legacy of memories
Courtesy of the Taylor Family
by Andrew Garda
Bruce Taylor, who passed away on May 20 at the age of 72, had a lifetime of things to celebrate. His wife, Carmen, and his three children, Bruce Jr., Lauren, and Brandon. He was on the very first Montclair lacrosse team in 1965 and played for three years. He was also on the wrestling team and was captain of both teams in his senior year.
His role as a critical piece of the offensive line on the Montclair High School 1964 New Jersey State Championship team.
It was with Brandon that he shared one of his biggest moments, though, as he stood on the field at MetLife Stadium in 2012 with his wife, celebrating with Brandon, celebrating a 16-13 Mounties North 1, Group 5 championship game win over Bloomfield High School.
Ron Burton was the quarterback on the 1964 team and knew how much it meant to Bruce to see his son win.
“That was a high, high point for Bruce,” he said, “having achieved that level of success on our team, and then sharing that experience with Brandon at MetLife Stadium was one of the highlights of Bruce’s entire life.”
Brandon said, “I know my Mom always says, [and] I believe it’s an actual, factual statement, but I think myself and my father are the only father-son duo to be undefeated state champs. It’s like [being in] the same position, obviously, almost 50, 60 years later. We played the same position, were both undefeated state champions. And that’s always something, you know, I take pride in.”
The path to those championships wasn’t always easy for Bruce, who lost his parents as a young man, was raised by his Aunt Ethel Jones and battled health issues later in life.
That path included a stint at Alabama State University.
Burton said the transition from diverse Montclair to segregated Alabama was challenging.
“Bruce had to learn the rules of the southern game, which were quite a challenge for him being a kid from Montclair,” he said. “So he had to overcome those obstacles and really bonded with a number of African-American fellow students at Alabama who became lifelong friends with him as well.”
“He saw a whole different world,” Brandon said. “I know he said it was a big surprise, you know, the segregation that he had to go through down South. I know he was a part of a few marches.”
What was really amazing, Burton said, was that Bruce was still Bruce when he came back to Montclair.
“Bruce was always the same guy,” he said. “He would talk a little bit about being in the South, uh, during those four years and how different it was.
“But he didn’t throw stones, he didn’t talk about racism. It was, he just said, ‘I learned, you know, to figure things out and get along.’ Bruce always found a way to compromise and get along. When he came back home in the summers, he just re-bonded with the rest of us, we all shared our own experiences. And his story was a little different.”
The “rest of us” comprised the core pieces of that 1964 team. Along with Taylor and Burton were guys like Dean Taylor, Dave Johnson, and Garvie Craw, among others. Many of the players from the 1964 team remained close, and they were an important part of Bruce Taylor’s life.
Still, more than anything else, having his family around was very important for Taylor.
“Whatever we did always incorporated family,” Brandon said. “You know, even when we had issues, it’s like, ‘Well, that’s your family, you know, you’ve got to get through because family is all you have.’ I guess he saw that when his parents died young.”
Bruce Taylor shared many events with his family and was close to all of them. Along with the 2012 championship, Brandon said he and his father did everything from attending sporting events to spending time at cigar bars to just driving.
For Burton, the most memorable thing, along with Taylor’s ability to get along with almost anyone, was his desire to not be rushed.
“People were late for events, people were early for events, and then we had what we called ‘Bruce time,’” Burton explained. “And Bruce time was Bruce’s time. He always had his own time, own way of doing things. He wouldn’t miss a kickoff. But it was a very special way of never being rushed, never being pushed. He was ready when he was ready.”
For Brandon and his family, the small moments are the ones they will miss most.
“He’s always had my mother around and his kids, and we have all just been tight-knit. I think he enjoyed more time in the backyard, just having cookouts in the summer, just enjoying the nice weather,” Brandon said. “That’s probably like the biggest thing we’ll miss about him, you know, just enjoying those moments.”
Bruce Taylor was well known for his love of Montclair, beginning with his time at Glenfield Middle School and MHS, continuing through his summers in college and continuing as he met Carmen at Nishuane tennis courts and raised Lauren, Bruce Jr. and Brandon. He then got to see his grandchildren, Kiamsha, and Kasein begin to grow up.
As much as his family, friends and town meant to him, it is clear Bruce Taylor left an indelible mark on all of them as well, which will echo for years to come.
The following has been provided by the Taylor family:
Bruce Wayne Taylor, Sr. was born to Arthur and Ruth Taylor on September 2, 1947 in Glen Ridge, NJ. After the death of his parents, he was raised by his Aunt Ethel Jones. Bruce was pre-deceased by siblings Richard, Rosemarie, Charles, and his nephew Edward and niece Lynne. He grew up in Montclair and had a lifelong love affair with our town. Everyone knew Bruce and he always had a smile and words of encouragement or advice to share.
Bruce attended Glenfield School and then went on to Montclair High School where he quickly distinguished himself as a superb athlete. He was on the very first Montclair lacrosse team in 1965 and played for three years. He was also on the wrestling team. His skills and sportsmanship led to him being selected as captain of both teams in his senior year.
As left guard on Montclair High School’s football team, Bruce was named an “Outstanding All County Lineman.” He was on the “1964 Undefeated State Championship” Montclair High School football team that was ranked third in the country. Bruce was recruited by Alabama State University in Montgomery where he attended on a full football scholarship. He started all four years during his football career at Alabama State and was designated as “game captain,” a great honor, in his freshman year. The SIAC Conference gave him “Honorable Mention” and he played both sides of the ball as a senior. He had an offer to try out for the Atlanta Falcons upon his graduation, which he declined.
Bruce's time in college wasn't just about football. He discovered a deep sense of justice and community activism within himself that he would pursue during the rest of his life. He marched to the capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama, for equality with his college classmates and participated in other civil rights demonstrations when Governor Wallace was in office. He brought that same commitment back home with him after graduating with a Business Management degree in 1970.
Upon graduation, Bruce's first job was at F.W. Woolworth Company in New York City as an Import Manager. While working he attended the Import/Export Academy. From there, Ford Motor Co. employed him as an Export Manager. He later moved to Prudential Insurance Company as a Special Agent. He became licensed in Life, Property, and Casualty and Series 7 Insurance. After a time, he joined Blue Cross/ Blue Shield as a Corporate Salesman in the health insurance benefits department. Bruce worked with various other insurance companies during his career where his easy way with people earned him numerous “Outstanding Salesman” awards. Bruce also worked for over six years at the Family Center at Montclair. He served on the Montclair Township Budget Committee for several years and served as one of the Co-Chairs of the Montclair African American Heritage Foundation Golf Classic for eight years. Additionally, he served on the Grass Roots Board at Glenfield Park House.
He met his wife and soulmate, Carmen, at the tennis courts in Nishuane Park. From this happy union was born their son, Brandon, a St. Francis University graduate, and current Montclair Police Officer. He had two other children: Lauren Tate, a Howard University graduate who currently teaches in Washington, D.C., and Bruce Taylor II, a Penn State University graduate who works as an Architectural Engineer in New York City. He was extremely proud of all of his children.
During his leisure time, Bruce enjoyed playing football, tennis, and golf, which included a “Hole-in-One” at Weequahic (his favorite golf course). For many years, he was an Assistant Coach for the Montclair Travel Baseball team. He also enjoyed slapping the bid whist cards down on the table at the Glenfield Parkhouse and being the head chef for the monthly men’s breakfast. There wasn’t a household project or design that Bruce couldn’t master and he had a love for working with his hands. Bruce enjoyed having his backyard filled with family and friends for cookouts. He had a lifelong love for Montclair and his family meant everything to him. He loved life and life loved him back! He was our Bruce.
Bruce is survived by his loving wife Carmen; daughter Lauren Tate, (grandchildren) Kiamsha and Kasein; sons Bruce W. Taylor II and Brandon Taylor; sisters Arlene Taylor, Shirley Pope, and Doris Taylor; nieces Carol-Lynne Myrick and Kimberly Spearman, and nephews Charles Taylor, Jr. and Glenn McGainey. He also leaves a host of cousins, friends, and community members who will miss him dearly.
Funeral services will be private, with plans for a public memorial celebration to follow in the Fall of 2020.