Online Staff Report
Celebrate the 108th birthday of Ethnic Heritage Museum’s African-American Woman of the Year honoree Beatrice Taylor from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, April 14, at the museum.
Taylor was born April 19, 1905, to Lottie and Clem Smith in the Gypsum Hills of Blain County, Okla. The eldest of three children, her two siblings were Christine and Lorentha. Her brother passed away at an early age, but her sister Christine lived to the ripe age of 100.
Beatrice graduated from high school in Kingfisher, Okla., and then moved to Wichita, Kan. In 1923, she married her first love, Ira Anderson. Out of this union came three beautiful daughters — Loretta, and twin daughters Yvonne and Lavonne, and six living generations with more than 80 in her lineage.
Shortly after the passing of her husband Ira when her children were teen-agers, Beatrice move to Rockford in the 1940s to be closer to her mother, who had moved here from Oklahoma. In Rockford, she met Thomas Jarvis Taylor (“Daddy Tom”), whom she later married. Together, the two of them worked for the Todd family, which owned the Rockford Register Star. From the mid-50s to 1965, she and her husband resided in Rockford but traveled to Palm Springs, Calif., with the Todds for their October-May winter residence, where she was their personal cook.
While she resided in Palm Springs, she also worked as a personal cook and housekeeper for Maurice McDonald, one of the founding brothers of McDonald’s Restaurant. Cooking was one of her biggest joys, and she was known as one of the best cooks in Rockford.
Beatrice holds the bragging rights of driving several times by herself from Rockford to Palm Springs on the historic Route 66.
Church has always been a big part of Beatrice’s life. She is a proud member of Pilgrim Baptist Church, where she has been for well more than a half century. She served as president of the Debrans Auxiliary Club for many years.
Beatrice is also a past Worthy Matron of the Order of The Eastern Star Princess Zora Chapter 20, where she served more than 50 years and is now a lifetime member.
She was also the founder of “The Afternoon Art Club,” a women’s group that met weekly to make quilts, knit and crochet, which they sold or donated to help the less fortunate in the Rockford area. She was an active member for more than 25 years.
Beatrice has had many milestones in her lifetime, but one of her most memorable came just recently when she voted in her 20th presidency. She met President Barack Obama when he was a senator for Illinois, and was invite to the White House last year. She was unable to make it, but still wishes to visit the White House one day.
Another great moment was meeting Oprah Winfrey for her 106th birthday. She was a member in her audience along with her three granddaughters. She was able to speak to the audience, and she was the star of the pre-show. Oprah greeted her and took several pictures with them.
At 108 years old, her memory is going strong — she can recite a poem she learned in the third grade called “November.” She still has many remarkable stories to share about her 108 interesting years.
Ethnic Heritage Museum is at 1129 S. Main St., Rockford. Call (815) 962-7402 or visit ethnicheritagemuseum.org.
Posted April 10, 2013