“Ms. Taylor’s daughters” give moving tribute during dedication of SJE auditorium

Dr. Jane Hursey speaks while Reagan Taylor (left) and Kristen Taylor Nicholson hold a print of the sign Hursey made outside St. Johns Elementary after the passing of Principal Jean Taylor in 2016. Photo by Melissa Rollins

By Melissa Rollins, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

It may have been a few years since Jean Taylor walked the halls of St. Johns Elementary School (SJE) but it is clear hearing from to those who knew her that spirit will not be forgotten. On February 19, the Darlington County School District Board of Education dedicated the auditorium at SJE in Taylor’s memory. During the program, her three daughters, current SJE Principal Dr. Karen Kinloch and assistant superintendent for Human Resources, Dr. Jane Hursey, spoke about Taylor and the legacy she left. Taylor was named principal at SJE in 1991 and served in that position until she passed away in 2016.

Reagan Taylor told those gathered for the dedication that even though her mom is gone, the values she instilled still influence her daughters everyday.

“Mama was beyond proud of St. John’s, her school, her teachers, her staff, her kids,” Reagan said. “Although she is no longer with us, our relationship with her has continued. She is still part of our decision-making, we all know what she would say or do because we know her so well. We know how humbled and grateful she would be to be to receive this honor.”

Being a Taylor often meant that no matter where she went, someone knew her mother.

“Growing up, the three of us were typical referred to as “Ms. Taylor’s daughters”, a phrase that’s been said many different ways, with various tones and inflections, sometimes as questions, sometimes as a statement,” Reagan said. “But today, it is a title we wear proudly.”

Kristen Taylor Nicholson said that the dedication her mother had for SJE meant that she and her sisters always knew what was going on at the school.

“Mama spent so many waking hours here, as a student, a teacher, assistant principal and as the longest-serving principal for 25 years; she loved this school,” Kristen said. “It became part of our daily vocabulary. My sisters and I were students here and we never lost that connection because it was always a part of our mom’s day. So we knew of the daily progress, the opportunities, the achievements.”

The auditorium that was being named in her honor was a shining example of Taylor’s love for the school.

“One of the highlights was the renovation of this auditorium,” Kristen said. “It made her so proud that there was a dedicated space for student assemblies and graduations that upheld the historical charm of this school. She loved that this auditorium carried on the 200-year history of the school the oldest, as she would remind you, operating elementary school in the district and in the state. Incidentally, it happens to be the year that St. John’s will be celebrating the bicentennial. Our mother was beyond proud to be part of SJE’s tradition of excellence for 50 years as a student and as an educator. Now, she will remain a part of the building that she helped build.”

Keri Taylor said that though her mother only had three biological children, there are countless others who she claimed as her kids.

“While there are only three of us born to her, there are thousands that she thought of as her children,” Keri said. “Growing up as one of the three, we each know what it was like to be in town, or better yet, out of town, and run into one of her students. Although she hadn’t seen this person in years, she would call them by name, tell us how he or she was part of the SJE family, what they wore on their first day of school and would then ask about their parents, calling them by name too. Her love for this community spread far beyond the walls of this school. That is her enduring legacy. This dedication means so much to us and would have meant so much to her. We hope this community will remember her name as she remembered theirs.”

Video of the ceremony can be found online at newsandpress.net

Author: Duane Childers

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