It is with deep sadness that I confirm that Taylor Willingham died last night. Many of us stayed up-to-date on Taylor’s long, valiant battle with kidney cancer via her CareFlash site. Taylor was the spark behind many of the civic efforts undertaken at ALA. She called me when I wrote a column about libraries and democracy while serving as President of ALA. Three hours later, we formed a bond, determined to foster community engagement through libraries. Over the past 10 years, Taylor trained many of us to convene and moderate deliberative forums. She also provided the energy that propelled our naming and framing efforts around privacy, our ALA civic engagement membership initiative group, and our recently established ALA Center for Civic Life. And she always found imaginative ways to apply new technologies to our many endeavors,
Taylor served on the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation Board for several years as the Secretary/Treasurer and played an instrumental role in several NCDD conferences. Many know her from her amazing leadership within the National Issues Forums network, and her groundbreaking work establishing Texas Forums at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin. As Sandy Heierbacher, director of NCDD said this morning, “She was a force of nature; one of those people who always seems to be upbeat, full of ideas, and full of energy. The kind of person who keeps you going.” And she kept going until the very end. Her inspiring posts that shared her experiences with this debilitating disease were poetic, as were those of her mother and husband. We became part of her family as she battled for every extra minute with her loved ones. Her spirit and spunk will remain with us as we forge ahead with the many initiatives she envisioned.
Below is a message from Taylor’s mother, written following her death on Labor Day evening. Please note that donations can be sent to the newly-formed Taylor Willingham Legacy Fund administered by NIFI.
Chair, ALA Center for Civic Life Advisory Board
This is Mom, again
Heaven just became sweeter…
…for the time has come for our shining star, who never had enough time, to make her final journey to eternal life where time has no end. She slipped through the fingers of her loving family at her side, husband and mom and dad, unencumbered at last, in a spiritual body with no more pain or suffering, to her home in the heavens in the evening of September 5, 2011.
On August 17, 1957, this beautiful baby was shoved out into God’s beautiful world, flawed by man. With hands on hips, and head held firm, she assessed the situation and declared, “What we need is deliberative democracy through deliberative dialogue with community engagement learning to manage change through libraries with literacy involvement.” And that was her life’s work.
But alas, her work came to an untimely end in this world. She has moved on to a bigger and better world where there is no need to deliberate democracy, for there is only one party—sitting at the feet of Jesus singing and praising God. This community is already engaged in harmony and in one accord. The Management never changes—He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And everyone can read their own names in the only book—the Book of Life. I wonder which of her names will be recorded there. Taylor? Teri? Terri Lynn? Or Teresa. Doesn’t matter. Taylor by any other name is a child of God.
We invite you to a celebration of her life on September 17, at the Salado United Methodist Church. Taylor loved nature, but her real passion was her work. If you would like to honor her memory and support her passions, you may donate, in lieu of flowers, to:
Taylor Willingham Legacy Fund, to honor her life’s work in a way that comes from her and means she will be remembered for the core of her own passion.
Send check marked for Willingham Legacy Fund to:
National Issues Forums Institute
National Issues Forum 100 Commons Road
Dayton, Ohio 45459
Salado Education Foundation (marked for Willingham Memorial)
P O Box 458
Salado, TX 76571
Attn: Claire Hartman
Thank you all for your loving support during this difficult journey. Your beautiful notes have carried us through, and we will treasure them always as we carry Taylor in our hearts. She will be missed by family and friends.
Terry, Ben, June, Brent, Terri, Ben and Becca