Jim Taylor (1951 - 2006)

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'Fireworks guy' loved life on the island

CARL MARIO NUDI
Herald Staff Writer

Jim Taylor spent the past 20 years producing spectacular firework shows for Anna Maria Island residents.

On Monday, Taylor died at the age of 54, after suffering a heart attack in Orlando.

"He brought so much pleasure to so many people," said Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn, "as they looked toward the heavens with amazement."

Many folks on the island knew him as Captain Happy, a nickname he garnered from making people happy with his firework productions.

Taylor, who moved to Anna Maria Island about two decades ago, began working with fireworks when he volunteered a barge he used in his dock and seawall construction business for a show Terry Dornan was producing off the Gulf shore near the Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria.

He also volunteered to help Dornan put on the show and learned the firework craft. He then became the "fireworks guy," said Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar.

"Jim will be sorely missed," Chiles said. "I don't know how he will be replaced."

Chiles said no matter what the condition of the Gulf, Taylor was determined to shoot fireworks for all the various events he was hired to do.

"I remember eight or nine years ago," Chiles said, "the weather was bad and the sea was rough; we didn't think he'd do it, but then we saw his barge coming around the pass."

Taylor was a member of the National Fire Protection Agency, the Florida Pyrotechnic Art Guild and Pyrotechnic Guild International.

Mike Shannon, owner of Cafe Colorado on Manatee Avenue West, said Taylor was "a very special guy."

"The island will feel empty without him," Shannon said, "and a little less fun."

Shannon, who as the former manager of Chiles' other island restaurant, the Beach House, would contract with Taylor to do the New Year's Eve firework display, said the Ohio-born Florida transplant could be very passionate about his positions on island issues.

"I remember when Ed (Chiles) was trying to get an alley vacated and Jim went to a meeting of the Anna Maria City Council," he said. "There was a lot of emotion on both sides and when it came time for public comment, Jim got up."

Shannon said Taylor was pacing back and forth in front of the audience when he said, "I don't feel a lot of love in this room."

"I'll never forget that," Shannon said. "It was more of a sermon where he was preaching brotherhood."

SueLynn said the city of Anna Maria will miss Taylor's dock repair expertise.

Taylor, who owned Taylor Marine, was the main contractor involved in maintaining City Pier at the end of Pine Avenue for the city.

"He knew that pier as good as anyone," the mayor said. "We lost a level of history that can't be replaced."

Chiles said "he was the strongest guy on the island - a tank of a man.

"He would carry a piling over each shoulder," Chiles said, "and just get the job done."

Although only a side hobbyto his dock and seawall construction business, the Vietnam veteran's work ethic carried over to his firework productions.

Chiles said Taylor would do a show July 3 on the island and then work all night preparing for a big Independence Day show along the Manatee River in downtown Bradenton and Palmetto.

Taylor is survived by his wife, Pidge; son, Nick; two daughters, Courtney and Kelsey; and brother, Joe, of Whitehall, Wis.

A gathering will be held 6-8 p.m. Friday at Griffith-Cline Funeral Home, Island Chapel, 6000 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Longboat Island Chapel, 6200 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key.

Shannon said Taylor was a devoted family man.

"Jim was with his son at a skateboarding competition in Orlando when he had his heart attack," he said.

Many people on the island will miss Taylor, Chiles said.

"He was a character," he said. "He cared about his family, friends and the island."
Published in The Bradenton Herald on Jan. 18, 2006
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