On a quiet street in South Frankfort stands the home of E. H. Taylor Hay Jr., poet, philosopher and practitioner of life well-lived. Taylor lives in his South Frankfort home with his wife, Joanna, his projects and myriad mementoes of his family and friends. His trim physique, vibrant voice and energetic personality belie his 92 years. Taylor attributes much of his longevity to an internal and seemingly inexhaustible fountain of joie de vivre. He actively tries to find as many moments of gratitude as possible throughout each day, noting that “each time I feel and express gratitude (internally or externally) I feel better.”
Born in 1930 in San Diego, California, to E.H. Taylor Hay and Ruth Patrick Williams Hay, Taylor is the great-great-grandson of Col. E.H. Taylor Jr., who is often referred to as the “Father of the Modern Bourbon Industry.” Although born almost exactly a century later than his famous great-great-grandfather, Taylor notes that they share many traits and experiences in common, including facing massive financial challenges on multiple occasions due to recessions that gripped this country. Family members, past and present, form an important element in Taylor’s life and he has collected numerous photos, paintings and pieces of furniture that have been passed down over the decades from family members and are prominently displayed in his home.
Another of his collections consists of the stories and tales of and about family members he has gathered together over the nine decades of his life. Taylor freely admits that to him virtually “everything is a story.”
Although slim as a youth — he weighed only 155 pounds when he graduated from Frankfort High (the exact same weight he carries today)—Taylor loved sports and participated in them at every opportunity during his early years. One of his first team sport experiences was serving as batboy for the Old Taylor Distillery baseball team in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Taylor recalls the team played their home games on what is now the Second Street School playground, directly behind and below Rick’s White Light Diner.
After playing multiple sports in high school, upon graduation Taylor went to college at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) where, now weighing a robust 158 pounds, he played defensive end for the Keydets. The highlight of Taylor’s college football career occurred on Oct. 29, 1949, when VMI traveled to West Point to take on Army’s undefeated team. Although the Black Knights of the Hudson prevailed 40-14, Taylor recovered three fumbles that day and according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, in the third quarter, he returned one of those fumble recoveries for 77 yards and a VMI touchdown.
Taylor says that, although he studied longer and more diligently than most of his VMI classmates, he was not a particularly strong student when it came to taking exams. He considers his most memorable college scholastic achievement to be when he was under the gun to complete a major paper for an English class and, using the “open a book and stick your finger on a word” method, he chose Dadaism as his subject.
Finding out too late to change subjects that the VMI library contained only two references to Dadaism, Taylor had to use great ingenuity and create his own Dada document to bolster his research. Called before his professor to explain the paucity of footnotes on his paper, Taylor shared the fact that in the entire campus library there were only a pair of paragraphs on the Dada movement (Dada being a colloquial French term for a hobby horse). This movement was essentially an artistic rebellion against World War I and the modern society of that era.
Dada artists created what some called “anti-art.” Examples of Dada art include a urinal and a bicycle wheel fastened to a kitchen chair (both created by Marcel Duchamp). Years later, the professor who had questioned young Taylor about his Dada essay footnotes, shared with him that his Dada paper had been one of the very best papers any student of his ever wrote.
After honoring his service commitment and brief, but successful sojourns at Lyon Metal Products and IBM, Taylor found his way into the real estate world. During his almost 30 years in this challenging field, Taylor worked in Louisville as a real estate agent, as a designer and builder of custom homes, and as the developer of several residential communities, including The Old Taylor Place community, which was built on a section of land rich in history.
This property was part of a 5,000 acre land grant made in 1798 to Taylor Hay’s ancestor, Commodore Richard Taylor, who had commanded the American (Virginian) fleet that prevented the British navy from landing troops and supplies to save the British army trapped at Yorktown, a critical component of the final American victory in the Revolutionary War.
Although he has lived in many homes over his lifetime, including Scotland Farm and a cabin in Bald Knob here in Franklin County, Taylor seems very much at home in his South Frankfort residence. After all, as he points out, his mother once lived in the house next door.
As noted earlier, Taylor’s family has long been associated with the bourbon industry. His great-great-grandfather, Col. E.H. Taylor Jr., built or owned several distilleries in his lifetime, including OFC Distillery here in Frankfort. These days you know it as Buffalo Trace.
Following a series of financial reversals, which cost him ownership of OFC distilleries, Col. Taylor battled back, building Old Taylor Distillery, often referred to during its heyday as the crown jewel of the bourbon industry. The main Old Taylor building was literally a castle, complete with magnificent Roman fountains and affording enchanting vistas. Today, Castle & Key Distillery owns the property and is in the process of restoring it to its former glory.
Still youthful in body and spirit as he approaches his 93rd birthday, Taylor attributes his “perpetual youth” to Synergetics, an exercise routine he created and faithfully practices twice each day. Synergetics came to him, Taylor notes, in a vision in 1980. He then quickly sold his real estate company so that he could dedicate his life to sharing Synergetics. In partnership with his wife, Taylor began marketing his new fitness routines and products across the country. Today, he notes, tens of thousands of people practice Synergetics all over the world. The Synergetic website is www.pocketgym.com and certain Synergetic products are also available on Amazon.
Taylor says his diet is dictated by what foods his body asks for. He eats mostly vegetables and a little fish and chicken, which he supplements by drinking pineapple juice, two cups of coffee each morning, sweetened with pure maple syrup (which, Taylor notes, is full of minerals), raw vegetable juice (celery, carrots and apples — all organic), and a lot of green tea and distilled water, adding trace minerals to the latter.
While he does take a few vitamins and minerals each day that “make me feel good,” Taylor emphatically states that he takes no medications of any kind, not even over-the-counter pain pills. Not a fan of going to a doctor or hospital, Taylor does admit that he was forced to make an exception in 2008 when he was bitten by a black widow spider.
One thing he does not hesitate to do is share his positive attitudes and visions with his many friends and family members (he has eight children, 17 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren). Taylor said that one thing he endeavors to do whenever he interacts with another person is to “elevate their best ideas.”
Taylor’s world is unique, calm and peaceful, yet at the same time replete with ideas, projects and accomplishments. Certainly, it is one of beauty: filled with books, art, music and memories. In addition to being a force in the Kentucky real estate industry for almost three decades and creating a new way for people to maintain fitness, Taylor is an avid reader and philosopher. He is also a writer, poet, songwriter and painter.
Generous and gregarious, Taylor always has an uplifting comment or philosophy to bolster your spirits and stir your imagination. As Taylor himself would say, “make the best of your day, every day.”