by Henry Lane Hull
For the decade preceding 2017 driving through Kilmarnock a frequent sight was that of a trim, athletic-looking couple walking at a brisk pace obviously keeping themselves in excellent shape. They were Betty and Larry Taylor, who began their daily jaunts upon moving into town from their former home on Lawrence Cove in Ditchley, where they had resided for the previous two decades.
The Ditchley house was a product of their own design, both with respect to the buildings as well as the landscape. It was a Wakefield Colonial with a reproduction 18th-century garage attached by a breezeway. The huge chimney was on the order of one from a house of two centuries ago. Entering the home one had the impression of going back in time to colonial days.
The Taylors had met on a shooting range, both of them lifelong devotees of the practice of marksmanship, and when Betty died last week they had been married for over six decades. Betty won many ribbons and awards for her ability as a sharpshooter. Larry was well known throughout the lower Northern Neck and beyond for his skill in building and repairing clocks, regulators, timepieces of any design and from any period, as well as for being an excellent marksman himself.
Larry called his business Lawrence Cove Clocks and his house was filled with timepieces of every description. His frequent admonition was, “You never can have too many clocks,” and he took it seriously. To visit their house at noon was akin to standing beneath Big Ben in London.
Always ready to learn a new talent, in recent years Larry became proficient in making precision knives from scratch. Here, as with his clocks, his profound level of patience served him well and his products were works of art.
Betty was an artist in her own right and together she and Larry were mainstays in doing tasks of any nature in sponsoring and setting up the Rappahannock Art League’s annual Labor Day Art Show, where Betty was also a frequent exhibitor. Betty was a native Washingtonian, where she grew up, went to school and then to work. She and Larry both were oracles of Washington trivia, having spent their lifetimes immersing themselves in the study and understanding of history. Larry’s father was the Dean of the Mathematics Department at George Washington University, perhaps a contributing factor to Larry’s own affinity with numbers.
Books, rare, old, used and new, were important parts of the Taylors’ home. Their two daughters, Barbara and Janice, were raised amidst a genuinely intellectual home life, the household being a type of school in itself, one presided over by two masterful scholars. Both Betty and Larry were voracious readers and they remembered everything they had read.
In the yard Betty liked riding her mower on a weekly basis during the growing season, literally leaving no blade of grass unmowed. She wore a cap similar to those worn by train engineers and always was comfortable in jeans. Upon leaving their Ditchley home, the Taylors found a new, smaller residence with less yard off Church Street in Kilmarnock. Despite the reduction in size, the house was able to accommodate most of their collections and in it they spent another happy period of their lives.
Last year, already in their 90s, they left that home and moved to assisted living. The reduction to a single room set well with them and Betty said she enjoyed her newfound “retirement” from the kitchen. Humorous expressions were important parts of her dialogue. She did not tell jokes as such, but made very amusing asides with respect to the passing scene.
Anyone who ever knew Betty would never forget her. She was an “American Original,” always filled with knowledge she willingly imparted to others, ever eager to do her part and more, in any community undertaking and delighted by her opportunity to be doing her part to be of service.
Betty Elaine Balinger Taylor, March 1, 1924 – February 27, 2017. R.I.P.