Marcena “Marty” Crowl Taylor, 83, arts enthusiast, restaurateur and longtime Fairfield resident, died Monday, March 11, 2013, of natural causes, according to family members.
Many friends and neighbors — and she regarded anyone she met as fitting into those categories — recall Marty as a strong supporter of the arts, an avid reader and an enthusiastic traveler, especially in the company of her family, on such expeditions as a 1997 trip to Ireland with husband Jack and daughter Ann, an Outer Banks vacation known in the family as “Taylor Tour 2000” and a 2007 shipboard and overland tour of Alaska.
The child of restaurant owners, Marty had and honed a gift for hospitality and congeniality evident to all. She worked a room like a candidate on primary day, genially introducing herself and establishing common ground with new friends ,whom she then introduced to other friends, new and old. It was not unusual to see Marty at a reception or party weave among the other guests, and by the end she would have stitched all present into a web of connection.
Marcena Crowl was born April 29, 1929, in Monmouth, Ill., the only child of Clark S. “Pat” Crowl and Esther Taylor Crowl. When their daughter was in third grade, the Taylors moved to Rock Island, Ill., where Esther worked at the Rock Island Arsenal and Pat worked for John Deere.
In 1945, after Marcena’s sophomore year in high school, the family moved to Fairfield. Pat had grown up in nearby Trenton, and he and Esther wanted their daughter to have a similar small-town experience. In addition, Pat’s brother, known as Uncle Doc, owned the Alley Inn on Adams Street, a horseshoe court behind a block that is now home to a senior citizen center.
The front area of the Alley Inn was a grocery store, the back a restaurant with a five-stool counter and a few booths. Pat and Esther Crowl bought and ran the Alley Inn until 1947, when they opened the Broadway Grill with 10 counter seats and four four-person booths.
Soon after arriving in Fairfield, Marcena was dubbed “Marty” (among intimates, “Martay”), the nickname by which she would be known ever after. She spent part of each summer visiting her favorite uncle, Everett Crowl of New York, N.Y. Mr. Crowl doted on his niece and made sure her stays included expeditions to Gotham’s department stores and rides in Central Park on Mr. Crowl’s horse, Silver, the first in a series of white stallions by that name to appear in stage and television productions featuring the Lone Ranger, a popular cowboy hero.
Marty graduated from Fairfield High School in 1947 and enrolled at Parsons College in Fairfield, majoring in English and graduating in 1951 with a Bachelor of Arts.
She met fellow student John W. “Jack” Taylor in a student commons at Parsons when he and one of Marty’s sisters from Alpha Gamma Delta were deep in conversation. An unwritten sorority rule stipulated that members did not need to ask to take a cigarette from another’s pack. Seeing the other Alpha Gam’s smokes, Marty shook one out of the pack, prompting Jack to ask whose cigarettes she thought they were. Introductions followed, after which Marty organized a sorority-wide turnabout dance, inviting her new acquaintance to be her date. That evening, she hid her car in hopes that he would walk her home. He did, and they married on Dec. 3, 1951.
After a honeymoon at the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Ore., Jack entered the Army to serve during the Korean War. Marty briefly remained in Fairfield and then moved to Texas, where she found the insects noxious and could not find a job paying more than 50 cents an hour. At her Uncle Rex’s suggestion, she lit out for California, moving in with friends and staying until she heard a neighbor was driving to the East Coast. She caught a ride as far as Fairfield, to her parents’ delight, and joined the staff at the Grill.
After Jack mustered out, he and Marty moved to Philadelphia, Pa., taking up residence in Haverford. Marty managed inventory at CertainTeed Products Co.’s 13 Pennsylvania offices. Jack went to work for Globe Ticket Company in Philadelphia.
In 1955, Globe promoted Jack to regional manager for Michigan and parts of Ohio and Indiana. The Taylors moved to Detroit, where Marty gave birth to children John and Ann. In 1959, the Taylors, wanting to raise their growing family in a small town, returned to Fairfield, where sons Todd and Paul were born. Marty, by now a food-service veteran, and Jack, who had worked in restaurants during college, leased and managed Fairfield Golf and Country Club, the oldest golf club west of the Mississippi River. Marty happily embraced the role of social organizer, over the years arranging events at the club such as a much-beloved annual Beaux Arts ball, whose centerpiece one year — Marty’s favorite — was a bulletin-board display of letters from celebrities such as aviation mogul and notorious recluse Howard Hughes declining invitations to be the ball’s guest of honor.
Marty also helped the Grill became a local sensation when Pat’s friend Ed Ahrens found a used commercial meat slicer priced at $40 that he called to Pat’s attention. At Marty’s urging, Pat bought the machine, allowing the Crowls to bring the good news of thin-sliced roast beef, turkey and ham sandwiches, such as Jack and Marty had enjoyed in Philadelphia, to Fairfield.
Asked what to charge for these new delicacies, Marty said, “Seventy-five cents,” to which her father replied, “Hey, this isn’t the Country Club” and set the price at 50 cents. The next day, a block-long line of Parsons College students formed outside the Broadway, causing Pat to decide that perhaps his daughter’s original estimate had been on the money.
At the club, Marty and Jack often hosted entertainers and musicians appearing at Parsons College during the school year and in summer stock productions on the college stage. Guests included jazzman Louis Armstrong, Stan Kenton and band, singer-comedians the Smothers Brothers, actor Orson Bean and other performers.
In 1968, with her parents wanting to slow down, Marty took over the Broadway Grill. A year later, Jack joined her there, and they ran the family restaurant until 1983, when they closed the Grill and opened Taylor’s Off Broadway Grill, which the couple built out from a derelict building at 111 N. Court St. Jack and Marty operated the much-celebrated Off Broadway until they retired in 1999. Jack Taylor died in 2012.
Marty was a longtime member of the Jefferson County Health Center Auxiliary, P.E.O. Chapter MB, the Fairfield Golf and Country Club and the Fairfield Art Association.
Marty Taylor is survived by children, John William (Diane) Taylor Jr. of Green Bay, Wis., Ann Taylor and Paul Michael (Kimberly) Taylor, both of Washington, D.C., and Todd Patrick (Mary Jo) Taylor of Norfolk, Va.; as well as grandchildren, Meghan (Adam) Van Iten of Menasha, Wis., Brittany Taylor, Charles “Charlie” Taylor and Ryan Taylor, all of Washington, D.C., Lindsay Taylor of Chicago, Ill., Brendan Taylor of Honolulu, Hawaii, and Megan Hurdle of Norfolk, Va.; Jack and Marty’s “adopted children,” Mel and Patty Allen and Ray and Roseann Karbacka of Fairfield.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. Monday at the St. Mary Catholic Church in Fairfield.
Visitation will be from 6-8 p.m. Sunday at the St. Mary Catholic Church in Fairfield. Rosary will be recited at 8 p.m. Sunday.
Memorials have been established for St. Mary Stained Glass Window Fund, 3100 W. Madison, Fairfield, Iowa 52556 and Way Off Broadway, P.O. Box 2454, Fairfield, Iowa 52556. Cards and memorials can be sent to Ann Taylor, 1367 “F” St. N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002-5419.