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California girl brings her talents to West Virginia

December 12, 2008
By Sue Kennedy Chronicle columnist
The child of the sixties was a special breed. There was something in the air, the water, the war, that spoke and told millions of teens and twenties they were free to explore, to think for themselves and to speak out. So they threw out the rule book. Their new found freedom was exhibited in a variety of ways, most of which have been captured on film so I won’t elaborate. Despite the serious time, there was fun to be had and songs to be sung and beauty to explore. California was the epicenter of it all and throughout the land, the girls of the 60s did, to quote the Beach Boys “wish they all could be California Girls.” Hali Taylor grew up in a little slice of Heaven called La Jolla. Statuesque, outdoorsy and beautiful with an inquiring mind and a free spirit, Hali was the picture of the California Girl. Her parents, Dr. John Taylor, a research physiologist and Carrie Yaffe-Taylor, an Art History major out of Oberlin College, filled a home for their four children with art and books and encouragement and fascinating company — like Dick Gregory and Jane Fonda. Hali, who could speak Spanish at the age of five, went to Claremont High School for Independent Study and then enrolled at the University of California San Diego. “I didn’t declare a major because I really didn’t know what I wanted to do.” and she laughs when she tells ... “It took me ten years to get my bachelor’s degree.” Pitting the value of life lessons against those learned in the classroom, Hali and friends would opt for life every time. They hitched down the Baja Peninsula, took field trips to Costa Rica and an extended road trips to Puerto Vallarta — and the list of learning experiences goes on. She met Toby Raphael at UCSD. When Toby’s father died his mother moved to Italy because, “She didn’t want to be a widow in the United States‚” and settled in Perusa, Umbria on a 200 year-old farm. Toby and Hali took off for Persua for a visit and stayed for a year. Hali and Toby were married in 1973. Meanwhile, Bettina, Toby’s sister, was on an archeological dig when she met Carolyn Rose of the Smithsonian Institution and discovered they were looking for a young genius conservator. Bettina told Carolyn about her genius brother, Toby, was offered the job and the newlyweds moved to D.C. Toby entered the master’s program at George Washington and became a museum specialist ethno-graphic conservator. They lived near Du Pont Circle and while Toby was at the Smithsonian, Hali studied bi-lingual education at Trinity College and worked at NEH and NEA. Toby then received a grant for an internship in Mexico and rather than go without Hali, he cashed in his airline ticket and bought a used VW and they drove back to Mexico together. Hali entered the Latin American Studies program at the Universidad Iberoamericana. Finally, Toby was then offered a great job with the National Park Service in Harpers Ferry. An offer to which his wife said: “I can’t live in West Virginia.” “It’ll be temporary.” said her husband. “Two years tops. Then we can go to the Congo, or anywhere.” So on one very lucky day in 1977 Toby Raphael and the California Girl moved to Shepherdstown, West Virginia. And in 1980, Hali Taylor received her Regents BA degree from Shepherd College. Armed with a Regent’s teaching degree, Hali taught in the Jefferson County School System, organized Migrant Career Awareness summer programs and photo workshops for at-risk teens and, became coordinator of the Cecil Arnold Community Darkroom. In 1980 Hali and Toby bought a big 200-year-old brick farmhouse on eight acres of woods off Billmeyer Road. The house had been burned out a year before but it’s been rebuilt, added on and shined up. Hali calls it her “messy house,” and if messy means a home full of originals, art and projects, photos, pottery, books and room to create, and warmth then I guess it’s messy. In 1983 Seth Taylor Raphael — who today lives in Oregon, putting his degree from MIT and his technologically artistic talent to work as a cyber-magician and in developing creativity workshops for Disney — was born. As his mom said “I was nesting and working on lesson plans and Toby was in Amsterdam, then he was going to the Getty Museum on a fellowship, so I decided to try a home business.” Precision Chocolate was also born. When Jonathon State Taylor Raphael came along in 1986 — today he’s at the Olin School of Engineering in Needham, Mass., and spends every spare minute traveling the world — Precision Chocolate was cooking. The little venture made tools — wrenches, shears, pliers — out of chocolate that turned out to be a perfect guy gift. These manly hunks of bliss were so cleverly packaged and realistic looking they caught on big time and when they were featured in Better Homes & Gardens and the Norm Tompson Catalog things got too big. “I was getting order calls every seven minutes twenty four hours a day,” Hali said. “We either had to kick it up or shut it down.” In 1990, reluctantly, because “it was such fun,” they shut it down. Shortly thereafter, Hali and Jona were on their daily visit to the Shepherdstown Library when director Honor Dorsey asked Hali if she knew anyone who would be interested in being assistant director of the children’s library. “It was in an instant,” Hali recalls. “I said ‘Yes, me‚’” and that’s how it started. Hali accepted the job and for the next 12 years worked at turning the children’s wing into a home-away-from-home for thousands and thousands of area children, infants to tweens, their parents, grandparents and caregivers. “It’s so important to read to a child from infancy.” This is Hali’s mantra. “It’s a fact, the more words a child hears before the age of four, the more a child is read to, has a direct effect on the child’s success in school and all that it entails. The ability to read is the key to their future.” In 1997 Hali received a Master’s of Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina. In 2002 she became the director and head librarian of the Shepherdstown Library. Today, with “a brilliant and dedicated team” Brenda Burlin, adult services librarian; Michelle Baluch, children services librarian, Anne Eden, assistant librarian, and teachers Kathleen Dawe and Pam Miller, and a legion of devoted volunteers and supporters, the Shepherdstown Library does the work of one three times its size. So valuable is our library, Hali was named The Shepherdstown Rotary Club 2008 Professional of the Year for her superior contribution to the betterment of our community. It’s said a picture’s worth a thousand words. As director of the Shepherdstown library and an award-winning photographer, Hali Taylor plays no favorites. “My dad put a dark room in our home and taught me about photography. It’s been a passion of mine ever since.” She still develops in a dark room, no digital, and shoots in the style of Richard Avedon. Her work has been shown from Washington to California and won so many honors and appeared in so many publications, the list is endless. If I had to pick a top mention though it would definitely be the 2008 75th Cumberland Valley Photographic Salon Best of Show Award for “Jona and Seth,” a portrait of brotherly love. Runner up: Being designated “town photographer” on the occasion of President Clinton, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak meeting in Shepherdstown for peace talks in 2000. “On the Wall — A Work in Progress‚” featuring faces of Shepherdstown has been an annual event for 17 years. Hali gratefully credits Cindy Cook for making the exhibit a tradition. Each year Hali sets up her camera in front of the library and beautifully and thoughtfully captures her subjects ... in black and white and never smiling. “You squint when you smile and I like to full eye contact. It tells so much.” The 2008 exhibit opens tonight at the Entler and runs through Dec. 5th. The opening reception begins at six. You should go. — Sue Kennedy is a former public relations executive and Emmy Award winning screenplay writer.

Article Photos

Hali Taylor is the director of the Shepherdstown Public Library.

 
 
 

 

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