Reluctant twin, engineer, soldier, family man. Born Dec. 10, 1915, in Midland, Ont., died April 18, 2013, in Langham, Sask., of natural causes, aged 97.
If our father had a life philosophy that he demonstrated to his children, it was simply “keep going.”
He also begged us not to name any potential offspring after him, since no one ever got it right. They always wanted to put another “e” in Merdith or call him Murray. To simplify things, when he was about 90 he started introducing himself as “MJ” to people outside his immediate circle.
Born in 1915, with the help of forceps after his twin, Mary, he was the fifth of seven children born to Herbert and Edythe Taylor.
The family faced hard times during the Depression, but made it through thanks to his mother’s inheritance, used in part to buy a comfortable home in Midland. His father made a living as the town vet despite a lack of formal veterinary training. When Grandpa Herb’s work included “kitten disposal,” Merdy was handed the wet burlap bag, told to bury it and paid a nickel for his trouble.
To offset the harsher realities of life, Merdy’s mother ensured he received piano lessons. He played well for most of his adult life; so well, in fact, that those phoning our house would often ask if the stereo was on.
While he always told us to take after our mother in the smarts department, he earned a mining engineering degree from the University of Toronto as proof to the contrary, along with a championship ping-pong trophy. Later, with his children, he demonstrated his ping-pong prowess on the basement table. With his competitive nature no child got a free pass. Ever.
After finishing university he enlisted in the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment and served in Italy in 1943 as part of Operation Husky, then was dispatched to the Netherlands. He said little about this time in his life, except: “We lost a lot of good men.”
Off the battlefield he competed as a light-heavyweight boxer and was the undefeated regimental champion during his time in the service.
After the war, he moved up north to work, and in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., he met Betty Cuthbertson, a pretty red-headed office manager, whom he married in 1952. Despite the tragic loss of their infant daughter Mary in 1958, their marriage endured until Betty’s death in 2001. The joy of their lives was their four surviving children and five grandchildren.
After Betty’s death, Merdy moved from their Saskatoon apartment to a nearby seniors’ apartment. His only complaint was that there were “too many old people,” but he did manage to kick a few butts at the bridge table. He lived there on his own until December, 2008, when a stroke forced his move into a nursing home in nearby Langham, Sask.
Remarkably, he recovered well enough to go hunting with his sons for three more seasons.
Merdy’s remarkable determination to keep going toward the end was his final lesson to his children. After the loss of his twin in February of this year, he struggled on alone for the first time in his existence.
Suzanne Taylor is Merdy’s daughter.