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Francis Tayloe

Francis Tayloe

Every now and then a person steps into your heart with the grace and beauty of a new flower on a spring morning. They just seen to waltz right in and take a seat, sometimes unnoticed, but unquestionably there.

And when that special person dies the loss takes a little piece of your heart and turns it upside down while showing you that life is so much more than television sets or video games or politics.

So it was that I learned recently that Francis Tayloe had died, I don't suppose there are too many people in this area who know who Francis Tayloe was. But those who did know him realise that one of those special human beings that come along seldom in one's lifetime has been lost to the living.

Francis Tayloe was one of the fine croquet players in America, certainly North Carolina's best. A smiling, perfectly friendly man, Francis essentially put North Carolina on the croquet course. He organized a club in his home town of Aulander, as well as Pinehurst and Grandfather Mountain. He was president of the North Carolina region of the U.S. Croquet Association.

And he will be inducted into the U.S. Croquet Association's Hall of Fame this fall. He knew about that when he passed away May 15th at the age of 67.

Hailing from Aulander, N.C., Francis was the kind of man that Will Rogers had in mind when he spoke of down-home friendship.

Of course, it didn't hurt that Francis had a croquet course set up in his own backyard. Or that Francis and some Aulander friends (population 1,000) played croquet the way others play bridge, or poker.

Through all my dealings with him Francis remained one of the most understanding and helpful croquet players around. He was always happy to give tips, to explain rules, to divulge strategy. And in a world where the competitive mood in sports can run rampant, his way seemed the best way.

Francis was very excited about plans for major croquet doings at Pinehurst. He was at the Pinehurst Hotel this past July playing with U.S. Croquet Association president Jack Osborn in an exhibition match. He was pleased that Peyton Ballenger was making such a positive effort at building up the sport he loved so dearly.

With his death, the Pinehurst people have decided to give a "Tayloe Trophy" every year in his honor to the winner of an annual local tournament. Which is only right considering that he was perhaps the finest player, as well as the finest ambassador, that croquet has seen in North Carolina.

Croquet is a soft, quiet sport. Francis Tayloe was a soft, quiet man. But he was a giant in my eyes. He was from the very first moment he entered my heart.

And I will miss him.

Francis Tayloe was inducted into the United States Croquet Hall of Fame in 1982.

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