Robert Taylor at Home in Nebraska, October 1963

RT732To Robert Taylor, Nebraska was home. He was born in the tiny town of Filley and grew up in the somewhat larger town of Beatrice. Even after becoming an international film star, he kept his ties with friends and neighbors in Beatrice strong, visiting as often as he could.

In October of 1963 Mr. Taylor and Ursula visited Beatrice to help Doane College, one of his two alma maters, to raise money for a capital campaign. In September, the Omaha World Herald editorialized: “Mr. Taylor always has been proud of his Nebraska origin and never has hesitated to say so.”

On October 25, the Taylors put in a long day:

“Accompanied by his wife, Ursula Thiess, he was engaged in a

Taylor and his second wife Ursula Thiess Taylor show at Doane College on October 25, 1963.

Taylor and his second wife Ursula Thiess Taylor at Doane College on October 25, 1963.

full day’s activities, starting with a luncheon for him and friends who knew him, then witnessing two one-act plays with students and parents who were on campus for Parents Day, followed by a tour of the campus and a lengthy visit with his former Doane drama instructor, Ellen Inglis-Farries, who had traveled to Crete as a result of Taylor’s strong desire to see her.

 

Mr. Taylor was honored by his fellow Nebraskans in several different ways. The affection he held for them was returned enthusiastically.

“Sometime during the day Taylor was presented with a gift of Nebraskaland stamps by the Nebraska Game and Park Commission in recognition of his contribution to the pioneer and

Taylor receives a gift of Nebraskaland Stamps from Jan Schenck of the Information and Tourism Division of the Nebraska Division of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission on October 25, 1963. (Omaha World Herald)

Taylor receives a gift of Nebraskaland Stamps from Jan Schenck of the Information and Tourism Division of the Nebraska Division of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission on October 25, 1963. (Omaha World Herald)

cowboy heritage of Nebraska.” Henry Fonda, another Nebraskan, had also received a set.

“At a special late-afternoon convocation to honor him, Doane president Donald M. Typer presented Taylor with an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. A dinner honoring him was held that evening, which served as a ‘kick-off’ for the fund raising drive.

The fund raising was highly successful,bringing in enough money to open several new buildings on the Doane campus by 1972.

“On October 26, the Taylors were guests of Beatrice friends Arvid

Robert Taylor shown her on 10/25/63 with his former drama instructor before the ceremony in which Doane granted him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Robert Taylor shown here on 10/25/63 with his former drama instructor before the ceremony in which Doane granted him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

and Abbie Eyth and all of their children and spouses at the Nebraska-Colorado football game in Lincoln. In an October 27 Sunday Journal and Star article Taylor said: ‘It’s always good to be back in Nebraska. This is he first time I have seen Nebraska play at home since 1936, but I did see them in the Rose Bowl [in 1941].

“In a November 7 letter, Mr. Taylor said: ‘The whole damned Nebraska trip this time was a real thrill, right from the little in Crete plumb thru the game, dinner with Spiv and Abbie (Eyth),

Taylor with Rose Tyler Shimerda and wife Ursula Taylor on 10/25/63.

Taylor with Rose Tyler Shimerda and wife Ursula Taylor on 10/25/63.

coffee and cinnamon rolls with the Shimerdas in Wilber on Sunday morning and the drive thru the western part of the state on our way to Wyoming. I saw a lot of friends and my only regret was that I had so little time to send in getting reacquainted with most of them.”

Most of the above comes from E.A. Kral, A Golden-Era Hollywood Movie King from Nebraska, Beatrice Daily Sun Supplement, 1993, pages 37-38) Mr. Kral is an historian of Robert Taylor and his writings are invaluable for anyone interested in the actor.).

1963 was a significant year for Robert Taylor. His health had begun to deteriorate and he had “minor” surgery related to his lung problems. Mr. Taylor was afraid he had cancer, although the doctors would not confirm this. All his adult life, Mr.Taylor had survived the madness of Hollywood by being grounded in his mid-western origins.  Now it would have been natural to strengthen his ties to Nebraska even more.  Robert Taylor visited his home state several more times before his death in 1969.

ist2_3198263-decorative-swirl-motifMore Nebraska photos:

Robert Taylor visits with Charlie Scott at Beatrice's Penner Soda Fountain in 1936.  (Gage County Historical Society)

Robert Taylor visits with Charlie Scott at Beatrice’s Penner Soda Fountain in 1936. (Gage County Historical Society)

Nebraska college football game. 1936

Nebraska college football game. 1936

1936

1936, receiving the keys to the city of Beatrice, Nebraska.

Taylor's favorite food was steak and he is shown here on 5/20/53 with Ross Lorello at Ross' Steakhouse in Omaha.  (Omaha World Herald)

Taylor’s favorite food was steak and he is shown here on 5/20/53 with Ross Lorello at Ross’ Steakhouse in Omaha. (Omaha World Herald)

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About giraffe44

I became a Robert Taylor fan at the age of 15 when his TV show, "The Detectives" premiered. My mother wanted to watch it because she remembered Mr. Taylor from the thirties. I took one look and that was it. I spent the rest of my high school career watching Robert Taylor movies on late night TV, buying photos of him, making scrapbooks and being a typical teenager. College, marriage and career intervened. I remember being sad when Mr. Taylor died. I mailed two huge scrapbooks to Ursula Thiess. I hope she got them. Time passed, retirement, moving to Florida. Then in 2012 my husband Fred pointed that there were two Robert Taylor movies that evening on Turner Classic Movies--"Ivanhoe" and "Quentin Durward." I watched both and it happened all over again. I started this blog both for fans and for people who didn't know about Robert Taylor. As the blog passes 200,000 views I'm delighted that so many people have come by and hope it will help preserve the legacy of this fine actor and equally good man.
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