Emmlynn Taylor, coronavirus deaths, Rosedale, Queens
Emmlynn Taylor, stands outside her Rosedale home, holding a photo with her late husband Jules Taylor, Jr., who died from COVID-19 last May. Photo by Leonardo March.

Community service legacy continues with memorial fund for high school students

Emmlynn Taylor, coronavirus deaths, Rosedale, Queens
Emmlynn Taylor, stands outside her Rosedale home, holding a photo with her late husband Jules Taylor, Jr., who died from COVID-19 in May. Photo by Leonardo March.

From placards placed outside of his home to messages posted online, tributes to Jules Taylor, Jr. poured in right after his passing in May. Over the summer months, the tributes continued as loved ones hit milestones he would’ve cheered, the memories simply came and new people found out.

‘It never once surprised me that everyone who meets you walks away just happier,’ one post read in calling Taylor ‘an incredible human being, full stop.’

‘[I] vow to learn some konpa dance moves in his memory,’ another said.

A third added: ‘He was a caring man who loved his wife and extended family, a man who loved to laugh and valued friendships. He cared deeply about his community. The family lost a good guy!’

Taylor, of Rosedale, died on May 3 after a battle with Covid-19 that mobilized he and his wife Emmylnn’s supporters with a fervor similar to that with which the couple has served their community over the years. People who know the couple through civic associations, sororities, churches and schools, and the hospital where Jules Taylor was admitted prayed and helped with acts of kindness during his final days. Months later, they continue to honor him through tributes and memorial activities.

Their unwavering support — during the bleakest days of the novel coronavirus in New York — makes the assistance that much more meaningful, his widow Emmlynn Taylor said. 

“I’m beyond thankful,” said Emmlynn Taylor, his wife of 19 years. “The care, the love, the compassion they showed my husband and I — I can never be able to repay.”

A dedicated civic leader, organizer and mentor

Whether it was renovating a tennis court or organizing donations for Haiti, Jules Taylor could be found at the forefront of civic activities around southeast Queens. 

Born in Haiti, Jules Taylor moved to the U.S. at age six and settled in Brooklyn with family. As he grew into adulthood and moved to Queens, he was an active member of his schools, workplaces and neighborhoods — always giving back to the community. 

In 2000, when he met Emmlynn, who was also active in her communities, the couple’s civic contributions deepened.

“[They] were like peanut butter and jelly — when you saw one, you saw the other,” said New York City Councilmember Donovan Richards, who represents District 31 in southeast Queens, during the farewell services. “When you saw one of them, you saw the other. And if you didn’t see one of them, it’s because they were doing something out in the community.” 

Jules served as president of Rotary International’s JFK Chapter and Emmlynn vice president. They joined and served as board members of the Rosedale Civic Association. And being an avid sports fan, Jules Taylor served as president of the Brookville Park Tennis Club, where he spearheaded a $2.2 million renovation of the tennis courts. 

“Tennis is one of his loves,” Emmlynn said. “So he was very much involved in making sure that tennis was something that the children had. It kept them active, but also [helped] the adults.”

Outside of their immediate area, the couple also supported or organized charitable and relief efforts. When the 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti, the pair collected a tractor’s worth of clothing and supplies. During a visit, when Jules Taylor found out that children at a local orphanage were eating off the floor, he found tables for the charity. And when he met a few students who needed computers to attend school, he ordered a couple of laptops and shipped them over as gifts one Christmas. 

Over the years, Jules Taylor, a graduate of Pace University and The New School, worked in human resources at several organizations. At the time of his passing, he was with East Side House Settlement in the Bronx, a non-profit social services organization.

Colleagues, civic leaders, friends and family remembered Jules Taylor as a gregarious, insightful man who cared genuinely for them, insisted on high quality in all endeavors, loved to crack jokes and dance-battle.  

“Jules taught us strong values and the importance of working together as a team,” his colleague Areliz Palafox said during the services. “He would always tell us: ‘Make sure you tie in a bow with any assignments or just in general.’”

Passing away, with a community of angels along the way

In late March, Jules Taylor began coughing and lost his appetite. Days later, his breathing turned labored. What followed next was a series of events that laid bare how ill-equipped the city was to handle the pandemic. 

In this video, Emmlynn Taylor recounts the final moments with her late husband. She has created the Jules Taylor, Jr. Memorial Scholarship fund. To donate, contact her via Facebook Messenger for details.

Still, friends and acquaintances helped smooth the road along the way. 

When their long-time doctor in Elmont told them to go get tested, the nearby urgent care center told them to wait 24 hours. A neighbor, who was also a doctor, lent them a pulse oximeter to check his blood oxygen. Urgent care staff then told the pair to go to the ER for oxygen treatments. 

At North Shore University Hospital, a team of providers, some of whom they knew, went above and beyond to care for her husband, Emmylnn Taylor said. His endocrinologist turned out to be her Alpha Kappa Alpha soror. Another provider, a patient tech associate, helped the couple stay connected daily by placing his phone in the hospital bed where they could see each other.

“These things are not coincidences. These are God,” Emmlynn Taylor said. “I believe that both of our faiths are what allowed us to carry through the storm that we were in.”

Eventually, the hospital allowed Emmlynn Taylor to see Jules in person. At a time when the majority of loved ones were saying goodbye virtually only, Emmlynn Taylor counts that as a blessing. 

“I am so blessed to have my support system,” the widow said. “Most people have a village. Jules and I had an entire army of people. We just had so many people praying for us, pushing for him.”

“I just never imagined that 29 days later, he’d be gone,” she added.

Carrying on the work  

In the months since laying her husband to rest, Emmlynn Taylor has continued to serve – this time, with a focus on helping families left in need from COVID-19’s impact.

To honor her husband, Emmlynn Taylor has established a scholarship fund to benefit high school students heading to college because he was so passionate about helping youngsters. 

As of mid-September, she had raised nearly $8,000 of the $10,000 goal. The widow has donated to one organization and two students, graduates of her high school attending his alma mater Pace.

Last month, Emmlynn Taylor participated in a balloon launch and support event for those who lost loved ones to the novel coronavirus. And she plans to host a Zoom panel to check in with surviving family members.

The community too also plans to keep Jules Taylor’s memory alive, with Councilmember Richards pledging to name a street after Jules Taylor.

To donate to the Jules Taylor, Jr, Memorial Scholarship Fund, contact Emmlynn Taylor via Facebook Messenger for the details.

Macollvie J. Neel, a writer and communications consultant, serves as executive editor of The Haitian Times. She is the founder of Comms Maven LLC, a consultancy that helps mission-driven professionals and organizations tell their stories in workplaces and media spaces.

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