25 Oct Molly Taylor Lhamon: July 1926 – Oct 2017
We share sad news that former Woodstock Board Member, parent and community member, Molly Taylor Lhamon, passed away on 15 October.
Molly Taylor Lhamon passed away peacefully at Emerald Heights, Redmond, WA on October 15, 2017 at age 91, after a remarkably full and joyful life. Mary Lyon (Molly) Seasholes was born on July 18, 1926 in Newton, Massachusetts, the daughter of an American Baptist minister and his artist wife. Both of Molly’s grandfathers were also American Baptist ministers, and friends at Newton Theological Institution. Molly grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where her father was minister of the First Baptist Church. They spent summers back in New England at their cottage on Silver Lake, NH, looking out toward Mt. Chocorua. Her family was musical, and playing the piano remained one of Molly’s lifelong pleasures. She particularly enjoyed playing piano duets with her sons, whether hymns, Bach chorales, or Scott Joplin rags. But little matched the delight she took in joining her friend Dr. Trois Johnson, the Peace Corps doctor in Bangalore, India, playing Max Reger’s piano pieces for four hands. She also loved singing in choirs, and joined community choirs in Landour and New Delhi, India, as well as at the Presbyterian Church in Redmond, WA. She passed her love of music on to her five sons, who could have formed a woodwind quintet had the youngest not taken up the violin in lieu of the clarinet.
After graduating from Oakwood High School in Dayton, Molly returned to New England, following in her mother’s footsteps to attend Radcliffe College. There she majored in philosophy, and joined the student government, first as a class representative, then as president of her class, and finally as president of the whole student body. She graduated with the class of 1947/1948. She also became very involved with evening student discussion sessions and church outreach programs at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Harvard Square, where her grandfather, Woodman Bradbury, had been the minister. She was also President of the New England Student Christian Movement, and first met her husband, Richard W. Taylor, at a national SCM meeting, where he was representing UCLA and USC. In 1947, Molly and Dick were both delegates to the international gathering of the World Student Christian Federation in Oslo, Norway. Dick was President of the WSCF, and it was at this conference, after meeting several of their future Indian colleagues, that they first became interested in India. Despite rough sea crossings, and the fact that Dick, being an only child, wanted to have seven children, Molly and Dick returned from Oslo engaged, and were married in Dayton, Ohio on August 20, 1948.
By 1955, Molly and Dick Taylor were sailing to India as missionaries with the United Methodist Church, with their first three sons in tow. And it was in India that they spent most of their adult lives, starting out at Hislop College in Nagpur, Maharashtra, and then moving to the Christian Retreat and Study Centre in Rajpur, Uttar Pradesh for a couple of years. Once their sons had started attending boarding school at Woodstock School, in Landour, Mussoorie, Molly would spend a couple of months each year living on the hillside. Later they would live for eight years at Serampore College on the banks of the Hooghly River outside of Calcutta, and then for fifteen years in Bangalore, Karnataka at the headquarters of the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society (CISRS). Their last years in India were spent at CISRS’s new center in New Delhi. Molly stayed on for two years after Dick died suddenly in 1988 while on a family vacation in Srinagar, Kashmir, where he was buried. By the time she returned to the U.S. in 1990, she had lived in India for 35 years.
Molly loved everything about India. She was good at languages, picking up Hindi quickly and later even learning some Tamil. She had many Indian friends, and enjoyed entertaining them in her home. In a country where having even one son is considered auspicious, Molly was revered for producing five. She frequently wore saris, and loved attending Indian classical music concerts, and cricket matches. During their years in India, Molly and Dick were supported by the United Methodist Church, but they were not “missionaries” in any normal sense of the word: neither evangelization or conversion were ever on the agenda; inter-religious dialogue and social justice always were. They avoided mission compounds, always worked with and for Indian colleagues, and made a conscious decision to avoid many of the trappings of expatriate life. This included never owning a vehicle, always using public transportation like so many of their Indian friends and colleagues. In Nagpur and Serampore Molly took cycle rickshaws everywhere, including at night if one of her sons had to see a doctor for an ear infection. In Calcutta she was undaunted by the trains at Howrah Station, the trams crisscrossing the city or the warren of shops in the covered New Market. Nobody was a better guide to Russell Market or Commercial Street in Bangalore, particularly if you needed to buy a sari, find the goldsmith most expert at ear piercings, or source local Kingfisher beer. And in Delhi’s Nizamuddin, she could navigate all the back alleys to the tastiest Mughalai cuisine, the most refined of perfume purveyors, or to listen to music at the Sufi shrine .
No matter who you were, Molly loved talking with you, and she would usually do it in your very own accent. She was always involved in community groups, whether it was the Women’s Fellowship at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Bangalore, or being an active member of the school board of Woodstock School, which she joined to help ensure that her sons were allowed to study both Hindi and music. When she returned to the U.S. she fell in love with and married Dr. William T. Lhamon, who was Dick Taylor’s first cousin. In 1993, they moved from Vermont to Emerald Heights in Redmond, WA, where Molly delighted in her newfound community of friends. A lifelong Democrat, she was thrilled with President Obama’s election, and was looking forward to voting for a woman President.
Molly is survived by her five sons: George Taylor of Boulder, CO, Brooks Taylor of South Portland, ME, Woodman Taylor of Dubai, UAE, Bradbury Taylor of New York City, and Nathan Taylor of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and Baissour, Lebanon, and by twelve grandchildren, and her sister Anne “CC” Sharyon of Modesto, CA.