Marc Taylor passes, friend of Connecticut rivers

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Connecticut Advocate for Rivers, 
Dr. Marc Taylor of Southbury, Dies

By KATHRYN BOUGHTON

SOUTHBURY — The rivers and waterways of this nation lost a great advocate Tuesday with the death of Dr. Marc Taylor of Southbury.

Dr. Taylor, who died of pancreatic cancer after a relatively short illness, was past president, director and current vice president of the Housatonic Valley Association; founder and former chairman of the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition; a director and vice president of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut; immediate past board chairman of the National River Network; and a National River Hero.

“I have been telling people that if you see a beautiful clean river today, please think of Marc, and if you see a dirty one tomorrow, do something about it for water is our most precious resource of all,” said Robert Houlihan, also of Southbury and current president of the Cornwall-based HVA.

Houlihan, vice president of Heritage Development Group, Inc., worked with Dr. Taylor extensively, both professionally and as a conservation advocate.

“Marc Taylor was my friend and mentor,” he said this week. “He introduced me to the HVA, where I am proud to currently serve as his successor. Marc was a pillar of the national environmental movement and a passionate river expert.

“He, quite simply, was the most evolved, intelligent and humble man I have ever known,” continued Houlihan. “He was just a nice guy — such a nice guy. A very accomplished man and a very wonderful person.”

Talking to those who knew and worked with Dr. Taylor one descriptive word emerged time and again: “collaborative.”

“He was absolutely the leader in Connecticut in terms of encouraging [environmental] groups to collaborate,” said Margaret Miner of Litchfield, executive director of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut. “He was an advocate nationwide, working with the National River Network, so that river groups here in Connecticut felt — and were — very well connected to efforts to save rivers around the country. He was very collaboratively minded, very good on science and very, very pleasant — very thoughtful in asking for and making a case for what he wanted done. A dozen years ago, he made a decision that he would give most of his energy to rivers and he made a tremendous difference.”

“He told me once that when he died, he wanted it written on his tombstone that he died trying to bring people together,” said Lynn Werner, executive director of the HVA. “He did everything he could, at every level he could, to protect rivers. His collaborative approach, quiet sense of humor and calm demeanor made everything seem OK. As a person, he would just touch you, calm you, and he fostered a sense of collaboration among people you might not think would get along.”

Dr. Taylor specialized in internal and geriatric medicine, and had practiced since 1963. He was medical director at the River Glen Health Care Center in Southbury, and was also an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, according to Houlihan.

“He was in the Southbury/Roxbury area for a long time,” said Houlihan. “He used to make house calls back when Marilyn Monroe was in Roxbury. I would ride with him sometimes and we would take the back roads and he would tell me interesting stories. He used to jokingly refer to himself as a ‘failed physician.’ I don’t think he was practicing medicine per se now, more directing the staff at River Glen.”

In recent years, though, the “medicine” he prescribed most often was for the unhealthy rivers of this nation. He was recently honored for this work with Aquarion Water Company’s Environmental Champion Award. Among the dignitaries attending the event were U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner (DEEP) Daniel Esty, along with Aquarion’s CEO, Chuck Firlotte. Due to Dr. Taylor’s illness, Southbury first Selectman Ed Edelson received the award in his honor.

In addition to Dr. Taylor’s many concrete accomplishments, his friends recall the human aspects of the man they so admired.

“He was fun,” said Miner. “He was by no means a stick in the mud. He loved to give a party. He was a lot of fun after work, but he might go home and answer 50 emails. We all relied on him. You could call him with a personal question, a policy question, a science question — and we all called him with our own health questions. I don’t know who we will call now. He was also quite an outdoorsman — good on water, a pretty good hiker, and he biked to work. He was in his prime in last year or two, leading us all.”

“He never misspoke,” added Houlihan. “He never said ‘er’ or ‘um.’ He said precisely what he meant to say and used exactly the right word. It was phenomenal. He had this beautiful baritone voice and you would sit and be mesmerized.

Then Houlihan added wryly, “One thing that irritated me, though, was that he was never wrong. I would say, ‘You can’t prove that global warming is caused by man,’ and he would say, ‘No, Bob, the science is very clear.’ And, as time goes on, it looks like he was right.”

Dr. Taylor used science to forward his work for river preservation. “He got the U.S.G.S. to work with the Heritage Water Company to get real-time river data,” Houlihan reported. “He obviously understood you can’t manage what you can’t measure. He was involved in river science. Heritage Village, for instance, has a lot of seniors who take a lot of medicines. He wanted to know how that affected the water system.”

Fertilizer used on lawns was another concern. “He and I used to gloat about how horrible our lawns are,” said Houlihan. “I would say, ‘I have no front lawn,’ and he would say, ‘Kudos to you.’ I would say, ‘My backyard is a combination of crabgrass, moss and bald spots,’ and he would say, ‘There is a beauty to that.’ We both live near the river and fertilizer on lawns just ends up in the river.

“He went on to the National River Network, a national river consortium, and traveled all over the country,” continued Houlihan. “He knew every river issue and was involved in making organizations better organizations. One of his greatest skills was his ability to bring opposing sides together to really move forward together, to get people to work collaboratively.”

Referring to his friend’s mild disposition and lack of self-interest, Houlihan referred to Eastern philosophy, where “water is often used to describe the behavior of evolved individuals — those who spontaneously bring progress to situations without inviting resistance or resentment. Like water, evolved individuals do not compete to reach high places but, instead, hold to lower ones. It is this humility that gives them their strength,” he concluded.

Dr. Taylor is survived by his wife, Janet, of Southbury, their children, Ann Vileisis for Port Orford, Ore., and Regina Krell of Lakewood, Colo., and three grandchildren. A memorial service will be announced soon.

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To read tributes offered to Dr. Taylor at his Memorial Service on June 24, 2012, please click here.

 

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