OBITUARY: Sydney Taylor OAM

Born: April 1, 1919. 

Died: October 5, 2012. 

Funeral: St Stephen’s Anglican Church, Adamstown, October 10, 2012. 

SYDNEY Taylor, OAM, a life member and former president of the Adamstown Probus Club, worked to improve existing services and introduce new initiatives for the disabled and other less fortunate people in the community for more than 50 years.

He was presented with the Commonwealth Recognition Award for Senior Australians in 2000 and given an Order of Australia Medal for services to people with intellectual disabilities in 1989. 

Mr Taylor died on October 5, aged 93.

He was born in Gateshead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in April, 1919, to William Taylor and Margaret Cronin. 

Post World War I-England was a grim place to raise a child and might have led to the young Taylor family moving to Australia only three months after he was born. 

Mr Taylor wrote a brief account of his life in which he addressed the hard days of the Depression and how his family found it difficult to hold on to their home.

‘‘I ran a threepenny doubles book on Saturday’s horse races,’’ he wrote. ‘‘If the favourites were beaten it improved the chances of paying the mortgage interest.’’

Mr Taylor appeared to learn some valuable life lessons during his early experiences writing: ‘‘I resolved then never to buy anything I couldn’t pay for.’’

When World War II came, Mr Taylor joined the Australian Army.

He decided early on that he would rather give orders than take them so he rose through the ranks ‘‘rung by rung, stripe by stripe until a crown was added to the three stripes’’. 

His promotion to commissioned officer was a particularly proud moment in his life and he took great pleasure in the fact his new rank was delivered by the Duke of Gloucester, who was then Governor-General.

On January 20, 1947, he married the love of his life, Winifred Clare Sturt, a descendent of the great explorer Charles Sturt.

On January 19, 1955, the second great love of his life entered the world – his daughter,  Michelle. This was the beginning of a loving family relationship that was the greatest joy of Mr Taylor’s life.

Michelle was born with a mental disability, which prompted Mr Taylor, already a champion of volunteer and charity work, and his wife to give up hundreds of hours of their time to help the less fortunate. 

‘‘At the end of the war my feeling was one of benevolence,’’ he wrote.

‘‘This benevolent feeling partly encouraged me to volunteer service to not-for-profit charities in need of help.’’

When Mr Taylor met his wife he found someone who not only encouraged and supported his voluntary work but joined him in his efforts which, since 1949, had been tireless.

He would tell his colleagues his service to the community would hold his interest for the rest of his life, but secretly he was worried who would keep the torch burning after he died.

All together, Mr Taylor’s list of voluntary positions totalled 31. 

It began with his foundation membership of the Travellers Cot Fund in Newcastle in 1949, an organisation that raised money for the Camperdown Children’s Hospital and other country hospitals. 

From 1956 onwards, the list shifts focus to work with people with disabilities, whether it was in education, early and ongoing, work opportunities or conditions, or recreation, MrTaylor was in there, fighting at all levels to expand opportunities and bring about change for the better.

His final focus was accommodation. 

He helped set up Hunter Carers for Intellectual Disability Incorporated following a desperate plea from a group of parents who were struggling to find a place for their children to live.

Even when he was no longer actively engaged at committee level, Mr Taylor was continually looking for ways to help, advise and encourage.

The two homes, built with the help of Hunter Carers, are a credit to the hard work by Mr Taylor and his colleagues.

But his work did not go unnoticed.

In 1989 he received the Order of Australia medal, which he described as ‘‘the jewel in the crown’’, for services to people with an intellectual disability. 

In 2000, the Adamstown Probus Club nominated him for a Commonwealth Award for Senior Australians. 

Reflecting on his life, Mr Taylor wrote: ‘‘Idirected my life with dignity and respect, understanding the value of compassion and empathy, believing all people should be treated as equal.

‘‘The beautiful things this great world offers should be available and enjoyed by all.’’

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