PORT ST. LUCIE PEOPLE
THE ALL-EMBRACING SALESMAN
children — had a dramatic effect.
“I was one of the only soldiers with mortuary experience,
so I knew what to expect,” Taylor remembers, “but it was too
much. I wanted nothing else to do with that kind of work.”
The experience haunted him. Taylor had distanced himself
from his spiritual roots but still felt a connection. “We may fall
off the cliff,” he says, “but we’re still holding onto the rope.”
Taylor was stationed in North Carolina and Korea. He married
another soldier during his 10 years in the military but
when the Army sent his wife to California — and him to Texas
— “It was the beginning of the end.” Eventually both he and
his ex-wife moved to Florida, along with their children.
“It was a tough time,” Taylor says.
Drugs led to prison but upon release, he made a decision.
“I have no problem with people who go to rehab but I just
fought. Fought for my life.”
From Fort Lauderdale, Taylor called his childhood pastor
in Pompano who agreed to meet Taylor at the church — a
three-hour walk. When he finally arrived, not only was the
pastor gone, a groundskeeper told him to leave. Instead of
being discouraged, however, this motivated him more.
Taylor was eventually licensed and ordained by that same
church, working as an unpaid youth pastor. A local business
hired him, so pleased with his work that they paid for him
to get a commercial driver’s license. And when he showed
promise as a salesman, his career path took a new direction.
Terry Taylor started working on the farm his family
sharecropped about the time he started school. His
father, also a builder and longshoreman, especially
enjoyed serving as a church deacon.
“He read well but every Saturday night he had me read the
Sunday School lesson to him for the next day,” Taylor says. “I
appreciate that foundation.”
It was a spiritual foundation that would be sorely challenged
in years to come.
“I was a bit of a clown at school,” Taylor admits. “I didn’t
realize it was about learning. I still get accused of thinking
everything’s funny but I try to find the good in life, the best,
the lighter side. Mama used to say, ‘Boy, sometimes you have
to laugh to keep from crying.’”
Working the fields seasonally, Taylor cut grass, had a paper
route, bagged groceries and collected trash. In high school,
he drove the hearse or family cars for Poitier Funeral Home,
then entered the mortuary science program at Miami Dade
Because of his background, Taylor was assigned as a graves
specialist when he enlisted in the Army. A 1978 deployment
changed his life.
Taylor says that sometimes a life situation shows a person
what he or she should not be doing. Recovering bodies from
the Jonestown massacre in Guyana, in which more than 900
followers of cult leader Jim Jones died — a third of them
36 Port St. Lucie Magazine
BY ELLEN GILLETTE
Terry “Pastor T” Taylor’s
dreadlocks make him
easily recognizable and
despite setbacks during
his life, his positivity is
even more memorable.