Deborah Kay French
Deborah Kay is the middle of five Taylor children. Right out of the middle, she was a trailblazer. She took photos with a Brownie camera when no one else was doing this (because they had moved on to little instamatic cameras). I remember Deb on her knees take a photo of one of us, looking at that little upside down image, focusing until someone stood still, then click. Somehow she seemed to know early on that she would be a journalist and I remember her carrying a notebook and taking notes a church. She was the editor of the College High School Fourth Estate Newspaper.
I want to connect the dots for even some family members who may not realize this. I followed in my sister’s footsteps in nearly every way. I was a late bloomer and did not get involved in the newspaper until nine years after she was editor, and I waited till my senior year in college, not high school, to manage a paper. I also enjoyed taking photos, though I only played with the Brownie, because by the time I came along the much snazzier “disc camera” came along with it’s tiny negatives and blurry photos, but like so many people who trusted Kodak with the next best thing, I bought it and used it until I too caught the shutterbug and acquired a 35 MM camera similar to what Deb had.
Deb and Terri were the first to travel far and they brought back stories and photos of Europe and I don’t know if I would have become interested in going to Harding University in Florence, Italy otherwise.
After Deb graduated college and was living in Bartlesville, I was completing high school, and I remember sweet times with Deb, like going to two different concerts together. For Michael Martin Murphy at the community center, my recollection is I got turned down when I asked a girl on a date or she had “other plans,” so my sweet sister went with me. For James Taylor, I was the ninth caller into a Tulsa radio station when “Mexico” played, and I won two tickets. At that moment, I was not getting turned down again after a couple of those, so I asked my sister to go. She didn’t turn me down for good music, and she bought dinner.
Continuing on the theme of music, Debbie introduced me to the music of Keith and Melody Green. The songs were about God’s love breaking through, about the mission of Jesus to take the gospel to the world. “Jesus commands us to go,” Keith sang. “It should be the exception if we stay.” Deb was actually the first to heed the call to go into all the world from our family. She planned to go and work with our Aunt Donna and Uncle Loy Mitchell in Zimbabwe. I think as the story goes, she was dating Jim, and she presented him with a choice to see her get on the plane alone or marry her and go along. Jim heard the call to share good news with Zimbabwean children as well in a mission school.
So Deb and Jim were trailblazers, the first of our siblings to go into mission, and Jill and I followed, then Terri came a few years later. Deb displayed such great courage then, and she continues to display courage today as she battles late stage metastatic breast cancer. She was diagnosed when she was 59, was given a very bleak prognosis, came very near to death before two grandchildren were born, but rallied and has seen both Eli and Naomi born and growing to be healthy babies with wonderful parents, my niece Hannah and her husband Brad, and my nephew Joel and his wife Julia.
Debbie, you used to sing a song that tickled us and we laughed until we cried, wet our pants, or just couldn’t wheeze anymore. The song goes, “Oh my name is Ticklish Ruben and I come from way down there, I’ve been tickled by almost everything. I’ve been tickled by a feather, I’ve been tickled by a wasp, I’ve been tickled by a little bumble beeeeee! Well ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, haha! Aha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ahahahaha! Ahaha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha . . . ha, oh, ha, phew.
Today Jim was gracious to let me drop in a few minutes to say happy birthday to my sis. They fed me some of my other sister’s “sheet cake” (goooood!) and I sang her Stevie Wonder’s version of Happy Birthday.
Deborah Kay, you are brave and beautiful, and you are a beloved daughter of the Most High God, King, Parent, and Lover of us all.
I love you, and I wish you a joyful 61st Birthday.
Your Adorable (I mean Adoring) Brother Greg