Readers who knew Sally Taylor by more than just her byline might have recognized wise observations from the reviewer’s own life in a 1969 Globe review she wrote about a trio of children’s books. In one of them, two boys befriended a neighborhood woman and rescued her from a crooked man in a tale that was “slightly mysterious (but not frightening in the Hitchcock sense),” Mrs. Taylor noted.
“This book is full of things close to a boy’s heart: hiding places, Morse code, and a house full of lovely stuff such as a silver sword,” she said, adding that “the boys not only succeed in solving the mystery, but also set an example of warmth and friendship to their parents, which will make the young reader feel that maybe the adults don’t know everything after all.”
As she wrote the review, Mrs. Taylor had first-hand experience about what was close to boys’ hearts. She was the mother of three young sons, and she relished creating a few mysteries of her own. Those close to her knew that the reviewer who preferred in 1969 to be identified in the Globe only as “a Medfield housewife and mother” was also married to William O. Taylor II, who in a few years would become the fourth generation of his family to run the Globe as publisher.
“She always introduced herself as ‘Sally Taylor,’ not ‘my husband is,’ ” said her son Ned. That held true whether she was reviewing children’s books or logging thousands of hours as a volunteer at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Mrs. Taylor was 82 when she fell Wednesday while walking her dog near her Boston home. She died the following day in Tufts Medical Center of complications from a head injury.
With a love of books that began in childhood, Mrs. Taylor read widely and constantly. Confined to bed for lengthy times as a girl because of illnesses, she developed literary habits to last a lifetime.
“She read at a voluminous level and remembered everything,” said Ned, who lives in San Francisco. “You would be hard-pressed to pick any topic that she couldn’t tell the history of, or its province, and all from memory.”
Jim Hammond, a cousin and close friend of her husband, recalled that Mrs. Taylor “was quite intellectual. She loved to be au courant with what was published, what was going on out there in the marketplace.”
And while she particularly liked history books, along with the children’s books she reviewed and recommended to schools, “her intelligence was very broad,” said Hammond, who lives in New York City. “Nothing was of no interest to her. Everything was interesting.”
Among her consuming interests for more than six decades was volunteering at Mass. General, where she helped lead efforts to revamp the gift shop into a store where patients’ families could find useful sundry items, and not just presents to cheer up those they were visiting. “She was very practical, my mom,” Ned recalled.
Last month, Mrs. Taylor was among six volunteers Mass. General honored for exceeding 10,000 hours of service to the hospital community. She led the list with 31,996 hours, more than double the second-highest total.
“I had a lot of respect for Sally,” said her sister-in-law, Anna Taylor Caleb of Rutland, Vt. “Her work at the hospital was remarkable.”
So was Mrs. Taylor’s wry sense of humor, said her cousin Eve Baltzell of Berwick, Maine.
“How do I explain it? She would tell a story and there would be a twinkle, a little wink — ‘I’m passing this little bit of information along to you and, hmmm, what do you think?’ She saw things differently than other people,” Baltzell said. “She wasn’t traditional, or what everybody imagined she should be. There was more to her than that, always.”
Sally Piper Coxe grew up in Penllyn, Pa., a daughter of Henry B. Coxe Jr. and the former Helen E. Piper. Her father was a prominent attorney who, during World War II, was a high-ranking military officer and worked with the Office of Strategic Services, a predecessor of the CIA. He codirected Operation Jedburgh and recruited French-speaking Allied personnel to parachute behind Nazi lines in occupied France and organize guerilla resistance actions.
Sickly as a child, Mrs. Taylor wasn’t expected “to live beyond the age of 2, but she was a little fighter,” Baltzell said
Mrs. Taylor was a straight-A student at the Westover School in Middlebury, Conn., and at Radcliffe College, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree. Her roommate was her future sister-in-law, Anna, with whom she lived in an off-campus building on Massachusetts Avenue.
“Sally did really well in school,” her sister-in-law said. “She used to study in the basement of the building with some other people. They did a lot of work, but they also had a lot of fun and laughed. Sally had a lovely sense of humor.”
Through his sister and mutual friends, Sally Coxe met William O. Taylor II. “I don’t think he had met anybody he was really smitten by before,” Hammond said.
William Taylor was already working at the Globe, and coordinating the newspaper’s move from Newspaper Row downtown to Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester. Before they married in 1959, Sally Coxe worked for a center headed by Henry Kissinger and on the personal staff of Nelson Rockefeller, New York’s governor.
“She loved it and was very good at it,” Hammond said. “She was discreet, she was prompt, she was always squared away when it came to having things done properly, and she was very accomplished at her work. She was really a star.”
What she didn’t do was talk about her accomplishments — either her work before marrying or her decades volunteering at MGH. Mrs. Taylor was just as discreet putting together dinner gatherings when her husband met with business leaders or heads of state. “She was the wizard behind the screen,” her son said. “She would flawlessly organize this, that, and the other thing and keep everybody together. No feathers were ruffled.”
Her husband, William Taylor, the Globe’s chairman emeritus, died in 2011. Their oldest son, William Davis Taylor, who had lived in Wellesley, died last year.
A service will be announced for Mrs. Taylor. In addition to her son Ned, her cousin Eve, and her husband’s cousin Jim, she leaves another son, Gus of Maui, Hawaii; her brother, Henry B. Coxe III of Penllyn, Pa.; and four grandchildren.
While raising her sons, Mrs. Taylor always had a couple of dogs, and she kept one in later years, too. She was fond of West Highland white terriers, which she valued for their intelligence, and her most recent was a rescue named Sam.
Having received a favorable veterinarian’s report about tests her dog had undergone earlier this month, Mrs. Taylor set out for a walk with Sam on the day she was seriously injured. Among family and friends, her devotion to her dogs was legendary.
“She could relate to them, she could talk to them, she would enjoy doing things with them, she would watch them,” Baltzell said. “She was a great observer.”Bryan Marquard can be reached at email@example.com.