The longtime public servant passed Thursday evening after battling a prolonged illness. He was 73.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 10, 2020
Pennsauken has lost a beloved public servant, as former mayor, schoolteacher, and Board of Education member Ricardo “Rick” Taylor died last night at the age of 73.
Taylor was an erstwhile cheerleader for the community, even going so far as to don a costume and wave pompons at the ribbon-cutting for the Haddon Point apartments, which opened to the public at the former site of the Pennsauken Mart last year.
He was unafraid to wade into complicated issues, whether lending his voice and experience to a panel discussion on race relations, or navigating public outcry around a proposal to join the township department with the Camden County Police force.
Taylor joined the community in 1969, beginning a 42-year career with the Pennsauken School District, the township reported. He was a high school English teacher for eight of those, spent a decade as its assistant principal, and another 15 years as the principal of two elementary schools in the district.
Taylor also served as the district Director of Personnel for another 15 years, and spent time as its high school golf coach and assistant football coach.
He was elected to the township commission in 1994, and went on to serve the municipal government for the next 23 years, including nine terms as mayor, and others as deputy mayor before resigning his office in December 2019 amid concerns about his health.
Taylor was also a lector at St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church of Pennsauken, and served on the Board of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Camden.
Pennsauken Mayor Tim Killion knew Taylor first as a student at the township high school, and then professionally, as a peer on the township council.
Killion described his friend as “a pillar of the community” and “a big part of my life.”
“Rick lit up a room any time he walked in it,” he said.
“He always had a smile on his face, and he’d always bring a smile to mine,” Killion said. “Even when he was acting like he wasn’t telling you a joke, you knew he was telling you a joke, and I waited for the punchline because it was always going to be good.
“[Taylor] cared a lot about people and he cared a lot about Pennsauken,” he said. “His dedication to public life, to the town, to the children of Pennsauken, that’s the lasting thing that I’ll remember.”
As an educator, Taylor was an erstwhile advocate for the students in his care, said Pennsauken Superintendent of Schools Ronnie Tarchichi in a letter from the district.
Taylor “served thousands of students and molded the lives of all with whom he came in contact, including myself,” Tarchichi wrote, adding, “the world was better off because he walked through our halls.”
“[Taylor] was best known for his oversized personality and his fairness. He would always listen to your side of the story, even if he was upset with your actions. He referred to his students as “doctor,” which might have been his amazing way of letting them know that they could accomplish anything…
“I got to sit with him and learn about his love for the students of Pennsauken and the Township. I also learned how to be a better educator from Mr. Taylor, and how to be a better human being. I saw first-hand how he was a top-notch family man, even as he became more ill. He had a magnetic personality and an infectious smile. His advice is a treasure that I will hold onto for the remainder of my days.”
The district will honor Taylor by naming the new athletic field house at Pennsauken High School for him. Tarchichi’s letter said that project is expected to be completed later this year.
The Camden County Freeholder Board also commemorated Taylor’s passing in a statement from Freeholder-Director Lou Cappelli.
“Camden County lost a great public servant and community leader with the passing of Rick Taylor, a tireless advocate for children, youth, and families,” the letter read.
“He had a smile that could light up a room and a keen intellect that was used to improve and enhance the Township over the last four decades.
“Without question, Pennsauken and Camden County were better places because of Rick’s contributions and his deep commitment to his community,” Cappelli wrote.
“Rick taught us all what it truly meant to serve our fellow citizens and give something back to our community.”
Taylor is survived by his wife, Bernice, their children and grandchildren, and extended family.
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