Former Resident of Sitka Hal Taylor Dies at Age 96

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Created on Monday, 10 August 2020 16:09
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Hal Taylor

Family patriarch, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather Hal Taylor passed away from natural causes peacefully in his sleep Aug. 5, 2020, in Silverdale, Washington. He was 96.

Hal was born on Aug. 23, 1923, in Mason City, Iowa, the son of E.G. and Lois (Board) Taylor. A product of the Great Depression, Hal grew up and spent his youth playing football and baseball, until his graduation from Mason City High School.

While growing up in Iowa in the 1930s and 1940s, the idea of living in Alaska was as foreign as being a man on the moon. All that changed on Dec. 7, 1941, when the United States was plunged into a war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After graduation from high school, Hal volunteered for duty in the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the 1st Marine Division as a hospital corpsman during some of the most vicious and bloody wartime campaigns in the Marine Corps battle history. These epic struggles included OP STALEMATE II at Peleliu and OP ICEBERG at Okinawa that yielded 12 Medal of Honor recipients and more than 19,000 American casualties, nearly one-third of all U.S. participants.

Following the war, Hal returned to Iowa and quietly resumed civilian life as a brakeman for the Milwaukee Railroad. He also married his high school sweetheart, Mae Jean Severson, on Feb. 18, 1946, destined to start family life in the Midwest farmland until Mae Jean’s brother Curt started working in Sitka on the Cathedral Apartments project. Lured by the irresistible attraction of life in Alaska, Hal brought Mae Jean and their three small children to Sitka in the U.S. Territory of Alaska.

As one of the few heavy equipment operators in Sitka, Hal quickly busied himself on major upgrades to Sitka’s infrastructure including construction on the new Sitka Airport, relocation of Coast Guard housing from Annette Island to Japonski Island, bridge abutments for the O’Connell Bridge, and urban renewal of Sitka’s downtown.

In later years, Hal and Mae Jean started the Sitka Shopper and also did job printing, later to become the House of Printing. They ran this for years out of their 1603 Davidoff Street address.

Hal lived life to the fullest, his perpetual smile, laughter, and sunny disposition always made others feel like part of his extended family. Generous to a fault, Hal regularly helped financially and emotionally prop up folks down on their luck due to illness, bad fortune, or unforeseen family emergencies.

Hal was preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Mae Jean Taylor who died Feb. 18, 2008.

Surviving family members include three children, Craig Taylor and Sylvia (Theno) Taylor of Oregon City, Oregon, Sammy Lou Swaim of Sultan, Washington, and Ned Taylor and Judy (Strid) Taylor of Seabeck, Washington; five grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.