OCEANSIDE — Ray Taylor remembers how his father refused to pay for college when he announced that he wanted to become a teacher instead of an attorney like him.
“I was taught by the Jesuits who impressed upon me to be disciplined,” he said. “They taught me good habits and I saw the benefits.” Taylor, in turn, wanted to teach others.
He stood his ground, working as a stock boy and payroll clerk for two years until his father came around. Another Jesuit precept — service to others — led Taylor to become a hospice volunteer after he retired as a high school history teacher in 1985. He served the terminally ill and their families for 18 years, initially in Los Angeles and later for NCH (North Coast Hospice) where he also cared for the first AIDS patients.
On Nov. 10, Taylor will be honored as Hospice of the North Coast’s 2011 Volunteer of the Year at the North County Philanthropy Council luncheon at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido.
“You get a wonderful feeling of satisfaction that you’ve done something of value,” he said. “You become part of the family. Many have never have experienced cancer and they accept you more than the nurse or doctor. You are giving yourself.”
Taylor says that family dynamics can be complicated. Some patients confide that a worried spouse is being too smothering. Others worry that his interest is only fleeting.
“One patient said, ‘After I’m gone, you’ll forget about my wife,’” Ray said. “I said, ‘Oh, no. I’ll keep in touch.’”
“Every year for the past eight years I’ve taken her out for her birthday,” he added with a smile.
“Ray Taylor is the embodiment of why hospice is so highly regarded in our society,” said HNC board chair Bobbie Hoder. “He is a ‘gentle man’ who puts helping others above self. His dedication and desire to serve are shining examples for each of us.”
While serving as a hospice volunteer may be noble, Taylor explains that not everyone is suited for it. The position requires being a vigilant and a good listener.
When a wife was upset that her terminally ill husband was still smoking and drinking, Taylor said he told her, “He’s had a good life, let him do it.”
On another occasion, Taylor put his foot down when a patient lit up a cigarette. The difference was that the patient was on oxygen support.
“I said, ‘You can kill yourself, but you’re not going to blow me up,” Taylor explained.
In 1989 Taylor became a charter member of Hospice of the North Coast, a founding member of the auxiliary and the first historian. He’s been president three times.
Taylor retired from his work as a hospice volunteer in 2005 but he continues to help with fundraising events, including Casino Night and British Tea.
Now 90, Taylor has been able to retain his own health by socializing, traveling locally through participation in Day Trippers and working out.
“At 90 I joined Junior Seau’s Gym,” he said. “I use the treadmill, the rowing machine and the bicycle. I feel great!”
Judith Miller knows Taylor in her role as director of volunteer services for the Hospice of the North Coast.
“Ray has a heart of gold, a great sense of humor and is a real kick!” she said, smiling.