Keith Taylor

“I want to live.”

In the weeks before his death, Keith J. Taylor repeated those words to his loved ones. And when he could no longer speak, exhausted after working so hard to live, he still found ways to share a joke through a raised eyebrow or a thumbs up.

His quick wit and his award-winning cartoons found humor and hope in everything from the absurdities of everyday life to the darkest days of American politics. A prolific artist, rarely seen without a pen and sketch pad, he filled more than 500 sketchbooks between 2016 and 2021 alone.

As breaking-news cartoonist for ChicagoPublicSquare.com since 2018, Taylor channeled his energy into multiple Chicago Headline Club Lisagor Awards and Chicago Reader Best of Chicago recognitions. Over 50 years of contributing to Chicago art and media, Taylor produced cartoons and illustrations for Studs Terkel’s WFMT show, the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, Rhino magazine, children’s books, and countless other outlets.

Taylor, 72, died on Dec. 16, 2021, after a long battle with cancer complicated by COVID-19. His family recalls not just his talent, but also his love.

“He was so obviously overcome with pride for the work his children did and for the health and spirit of his grandson, Shepard,” his son Max recalled. “He always made you feel like your efforts and talents were extraordinary.”

Taylor shared his passion for art in many ways: teaching classes and giving private lessons for years, serving as president of the Oak Park Art League, and enjoying countless trips to museums and galleries far and wide.

“He was always willing to give you what he could,” Max said, “a ride, a gift he thought you’d like, drawings for absolutely any occasion — however big or small. His work ethic inspired me greatly and I owe so much of my success as a farmer to the diligence and dedication he showed toward his work.”

His greatest joy was finding the love of his life, Rhona, to whom he was married for 45 years. “They filled the lives of everyone around them with art and curiosity and friendship and laughter,” Max said.

Keith J. Taylor, of Oak Park, was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1949. He earned degrees in painting and printmaking from the University of Illinois. His life in Chicago took him from the folk and blues music bars along Lincoln Avenue to a career as a nationally syndicated cartoonist and greeting card artist. Along the way, he taught himself graphic design, spending the last 16 years as a desktop publisher and resident cartoonist at the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Taylor is survived by his wife, Rhona (née Tuchscher); his children, Nell Taylor (Aaron Hamlin) and Max Taylor (Kerry Manire Taylor); his grandson, Shepard Taylor; his sister, Lynn Tripoli Young; his brother, Gary Taylor (Marie Case); and many beloved nieces and nephews, extended relations and friends.

Taylor’s generosity extended beyond his death: He donated his body to science to help better others’ lives.

A virtual memorial will be held Jan. 15, from 2 to 4 p.m. Central time. RSVP to Nell Taylor at hj.nell.taylor@gmail.com for details. 

In lieu of flowers, please donate to Read/Write Library (https://readwritelibrary.org), Housing Forward (https://www.housingforward.org/give), or the charity of your choice.

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