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James Robert Taylor II, passed away on March 20. No, not that James Taylor. Our sweet baby James ("Rob"), was the greatest. After the War, Rob's Dad, Jim (admittedly the worst pilot in the Air Force, but a handsome devil), returned to Kentucky, where he wed Maxine Bennett, a firecracker blonde who modeled in the local papers. Soon after Rob's birth on May 17, 1952, Pan Am transferred Jim to Cape Canaveral to oversee the nascent Space Program.
Despite Rob's awesome pedigree, he did not sit at the cool kids table. A lanky, awkward teen, Rob preferred to crouch in a duck blind with his Remington and scan for canvasbacks and pintails circling the marsh. Rob's first true love was the game of tennis. He modeled his serve and volley game after the great Rod "Rocket" Laver, and rallied for years against the backboard, before earning a spot on the Cocoa Beach High varsity squad.
At Florida State, Rob was crowned The King (one of many fraternity nicknames, including T-Bone, Tony the Tiger and Stud). As president of Phi Delt, he threw legendary parties, dumpster-dove for exam answer sheets, and conceived infamous pranks involving smoke grenades and a chocolate laxative cake. In 1975, the student body nominated Rob FSU's "Man of the Year".
Rob worked as a tennis pro throughout his 20's. During his "lost weekend," Rob commuted between nightclub and country club, where he played doubles with Capote and Sinatra, rebuffed an A-list socialite, and hit with his idol, The Rocket, before a US Open appearance. At 28, Rob packed up his tennis whites and leisure suits, and enrolled at the University of Arkansas Law School. After earning a Masters in Tax Law from SMU, he crunched numbers for big firms, such as Arthur Andersen, but missed tennis and would sometimes moonlight at his old clubs. On one such occasion, in the winter of 1989, he noticed a cutie-pie on Court 1 at the Jupiter Island Club. She, in turn, noticed his tan thighs and baby blue eyes. Game, set, match. The King had met his Queen. Rob loved Susan and her two little terrors, Hannah and Walker, whom he would ferry to school in his Jeep, leaving them always with a peppy goodbye, "make me proud, kiddos!" Susan eventually tamed the renowned bachelor, marrying him on May 27, 1995, in Winter Park, FL.
After his cancer diagnosis in February 2011, Rob continued to work tirelessly for CFD, the flooring company he co-founded a decade earlier with his friend, Arden Kelley. He and Susan spent more time at their home in Blue Hill, ME, where they adventured up and down the coast in pursuit of driftwood and spoiled their new granddaughter, Eliza. Last summer, Susan and Rob constructed their magnum opus, a chicken/duck coop built to withstand the most brutal Nor'easter, with all manner of hatch doors and a state-of-the-art security system to thwart weasels, foxes and hen rustlers.
On a recent family trip to India, Rob happened upon the Dalai Lama (twice), and exchanged pleasantries with His Holiness. Rob passed away in his sleep at home in Ft. Lauderdale. He wore a Florida State Seminoles shirt and lay peacefully beside his loveliest of loves, Susan.
You may sign James' guestbook at www.beckman-williamson.com.
Beckman Williamson Funeral Home
101 North Brevard Avenue Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
Published in FLORIDA TODAY on Mar. 31, 2013