The sanctuary at the Methodist Church on Via de la Paz was filled last Friday afternoon for the memorial service of Jeff Taylor, 36, and his 2-1/2-year-old daughter Bayden, who had lived just down the block. They had died on Monday afternoon when their car inexplicably crashed into an apartment garage behind the church and caught fire. As mourners entered the church, they were greeted by members of the family who showed them to their seats, including Jeff’s older brother Bob, his older sister Cheryl Higgins, and his younger brother Tim, all of whom grew up in the Palisades. On the altar was a poster-size black-and-white photo of the family at Christmas: Colette with her daughter Bayden on her knee, Jeff holding Preston. There was also a large color picture of Jeff and Bayden taken just two weeks before they died, Bayden in a pink party dress being held by her dad at a friend’s birthday party. The service began with a Boy Scout Honor Guard from Troop 223, in honor of Jeff having been an Eagle Scout. ‘While we have come together today in grief and in pain,’ said Reverend Nancy Wilson in her opening remarks, ‘we have also come here today to celebrate the lives of these two wonderful people.’ As ‘Amazing Grace’ was sung by a soloist, young Preston was inconsolable as he cried in his mother’s arms. The eulogy was given by Jeff Taylor’s best friend, Phil Pecsok, who was best man at Taylor’s wedding. Until recently, Taylor worked for Pecsok at NAXCOM, an Internet company that sells sports memorabilia. ‘Jeff was a true Palisadian,’ Pecsok said. ‘Born and raised here, he went to Palisades Elementary, to Village School for a year, to Paul Revere and then Pali High. Jeff and I met almost 30 years ago to this date when we began playing baseball in the Phillies organization at the Recreation Center. Jeff later went to college at San Diego State, where he met Colette. ‘He loved Colette more than anything and his kids were the light in his life. He always thought about them. Five minutes before Jeff died, he drove over to this church where his wife and son were, just so he could drop off a raincoat for Preston and an umbrella for his wife so they wouldn’t get wet walking the four doors back home in the rain. Jeff was Preston’s and Bayden’s hero. He and Preston were inseparable. And with little Bayden, it almost became a joke that she wouldn’t let go of her dad. She adored her dad. I suppose that is why Bayden is with Jeff now. ‘Jeff was a one-of-a-kind individual who touched us all in many ways. But most of all, he made us laugh. I know I will miss his smile, his wit, and his sense of humor. I will miss whiffle ball, over-the-line, baseball games and Little League championships. I will miss poker nights and Vegas trips, chats on the phone and watching ‘Seinfeld’ together. I will miss calling him ‘Tiger.’ I will miss him saying ‘No’ to Sunday golf with me, because Sundays were his family day. But, most of all, I will miss his laughter, his friendship and his love. We all wish this would have happened at 86 instead of 36, but I know I wouldn’t have traded this wonderful, rich, short ride with Jeff for anything in the world. ‘Jeff, my friend, we will never, ever, forget you.’ Bob Taylor, 12 years older than his brother, shared some family memories, and the last conversation he had with Jeff the day before he died. ‘I was on the phone with him on Sunday just before the Oscars, and he said he thought ‘Seabiscuit’ was going to win for Best Picture,’ recalled Bob. ‘Now, if you know Jeff like I do, you’d know that for a moment there he almost had me convinced. But in the end I told him ‘No,’ that I was going to stick with ‘Lord of the Rings.’ I left him a message Monday morning to kid him about it. I’m still waiting for him to call me back…’ Colette Taylor was the last to speak. Saying she was unaccustomed to addressing a crowd, she thanked everyone for coming to the service. ‘I feel your love and your prayers. They help me get through the day. Right now, I’m feeling OK. But it hurts. It hurts a lot.’ [See adjoining story.] There was then a slide presentation of the family’s life together, accompanied by Kenny Rogers’ hit song ‘Through The Years,’ which was Colette’s favorite song. She sang it to Jeff all the time: ”’Through the years ”Through all the good and bad ”I know how much we’ve had ”I’ve always been so glad to be ””with you ”Through the years’ ‘The loss of Jeff and Bayden leaves a passel of questions,’ Reverend Wilson concluded. ‘Why these two people? Why here? Why now? Why was God not in the neighborhood last Monday afternoon? We are left bewildered. And angry. What is the meaning behind this seemingly random sequence of illogical and senseless events? I believe [in this case] God’s own heart was broken.’ Mourners were then invited to a reception at the Bel-Air Bay Club, which was dubbed as a special party for Bayden, ‘for the 3rd birthday [July 2] she is never going to have, and all the other celebrations in her life that will never be,’ said her aunt Cheryl. In the living room of the club, which was decorated with candles and flowers, there was a large cake with dancing princesses on the top. Guests were invited to enjoy the family’s photo albums which were on display. After about an hour everyone gathered on the grass overlooking the ocean in front of the club. They were given a pink or white balloon. Colette was the first to release hers, followed by Preston, and then the guests, 150 balloons in all. ‘It was the most beautiful thing,’ Colette said afterwards. ‘Seeing all those balloons going off towards the sky.’ Preston later asked his mother if she thought the balloons had reached heaven yet. ‘I told him yes, which seemed to please him.’
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