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Marcella Taylor: Keeping Roy and Dale alive

Area historian named among Daily Press Persons of the Year

Editor's note:

Today we continue our 10-part series profiling some of the people who made a difference in 2012. Those profiled were nominated by Daily Press readers, with the finalists selected by the Daily Press staff.

Joyce Applegarth: Learning through teaching

Feeding minds and souls

Miracle provider

Raising bars for students

Rose Villar: Passionate about wound care

APPLE VALLEY • Marcella "Marcy" Taylor has made it her mission to preserve the legacy of arguably Apple Valley's most famous residents: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

And for Taylor, living in the Rogers’ first Apple Valley home on Highway 18 is a mere sliver of her dedication to their history.

Since moving there in July 1990 while working as a teacher in the High Desert, Taylor has all but turned her home into a museum dedicated to the famous couple and other prominent figures.

John Bascom, president of the Mohahve Historical Society, called Taylor an exceptional historian and preservationist in a letter nominating her as a Daily Press 2012 Person of the Year.

Taylor played a major role in bringing about the celebrations of Roy Rogers’ and Dale Evans’ 100 birthdays in 2011 and 2012, Bascom said in the nomination letter.

Taylor was a teacher for more than three decades, working in classrooms around the High Desert, in Los Angeles and in Iowa.

Her husband taught special education and coached track and cross country at Victor Valley High School until he lost his battle with cancer in 1995 at age 54.

Taylor is a member of the Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce and the California Retired Teachers Association, while also serving on the Mohahve Historical Society board with Bascom.

“Taylor should be honored and thanked for her work in preserving the legacy of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans for future generations,” Bascom said.

Q: What’s motivated you over the last several years to dedicate your time to preserving the history and legacy of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans?

A: Over the years more and more Rogers memorabilia started appearing at my home.

Many pieces were given to me, some by people who were afraid their kids might discard them, and others from auctions and sales at the museum, the Tomahawk house and the ranch in Oro Grande, as well as antique stores across the country. Visiting the Victorville museum was a humbling experience, viewing among all the costumes, saddles and displays from the glory days of movies and TV, the displays dedicated to their three deceased children and Roy’s mother.

When my college roommate, who had adopted two boys afflicted with Down syndrome, came to visit, she wanted to head straight to the museum to buy “Angel Unaware,” a book written by Robin, through Dale. Since Roy and Dale both passed away, and the museum moved to Branson, Mo. and then closed, more and more people have been interested in visiting my home to reminisce and honor our local legends.

Q: What are some of the new historical additions to your house?

A: Besides the Roy and Dale and vintage family collectibles that fill my home, I added a real jewel this year: the Diamond B Barn, in honor of the late Earl Bascom, Western artist and rodeo cowboy. In addition to a huge collection of tack, saddles, cowboy artifacts and mule harnesses from the Mormon trail, the display includes large framed pictures of Earl in action at the Calgary Stampede, Earl and Roy Rogers, the glass display case of Earl’s rodeo inventions formerly housed at the Victor Valley Museum and his plastering tools and branding irons. Hundreds of pairs of boots that came from the barn at the ranch on Stoddard Wells Road hang from the ceiling. This display especially impressed Rusty Richards, former member of the Sons of the Pioneers, when he toured last September.

Q: What charities are close to your heart and why?

A: One charity I support is Happy Trails Children’s Foundation. Over the past 13 years I’ve attended their banquets and events, including those at the museum, the ranch, the Cocky Bull and the Ambassador Hotel. After all of our expenses from the Dale Evans 100th birthday celebration event were paid, the remaining profits went to Happy Trails. I still sell Dale Centennial T-shirts, buttons, books, CDs and videos to benefit that worthwhile organization that began as the Victor Valley Child Abuse Task Force. The name was changed when Roy and Dale got involved. I recently started supporting a charity dear to the heart of Roy and Dale’s daughter Mimi Swift of Wrightwood, a riding club in Pinon Hills called Circle H Youth Ranch for disadvantaged youth.

Q: What are the things that bring you happiness on a daily basis?

A: I’m the type that feels the need to accomplish something, or many somethings, every day. I usually have lots of projects going on. I’m excited to start them, happy to work on them and even more happy when some of them are finished! Truthfully, my greatest happiness right now comes from the four afternoons and evenings a week I spend with my foster granddaughters. We’re always busy with homework and school projects, as well as other activities, presently science fair, Christmas events and performances.

Q: During your time as a teacher, is there one student who still sticks out in your memory? Why?

A: There are many students I have fond memories of, starting back in a small town in Iowa during the early ’70s, in Los Angeles during the late ’70s and ’80s, and in the desert for the next 27 years. Here locally, my first choice is Keisha Williams, who was in my fifth grade class at George, my seventh grade art class and was my eighth grade teacher’s assistant at Sheppard Middle School.

She’s stayed in touch over the years, and I found out it was Keisha who wrote a nice comment about me on “Talkback” when I was working on the Seventh Street murals. Despite her tiny size and wearing a brace on her leg for much of elementary school, Keisha made a big impact on many people including me.

Q: Why did you decide to serve on the board of the Mohahve Historical Society?

A: My two granddaughters and I joined the Mohahve Historical Society in January 2011, shortly after I retired from teaching. I started doing some of the things I had been interested in, but never had time to do.

At the end of 2011 the organization needed a new corresponding secretary, and I thought, “Oh, I can do that.” I didn’t really have to be elected, as nobody else wanted the job! It’s been a lot of fun and very educational. I haven’t been able to make a lot of the Saturday field trips due to my work schedule, but I really enjoy the speakers and presentations at the monthly meetings at the Victor Valley Museum.

Last April I gave a presentation on the Apple Valley Ranchos and my own 1949 adobe block historical home followed by a tour of my residence. A few Rogers relatives and Newt Bass’ secretary Barbara Davisson showed up.

In October I arranged for Mimi Rogers Swift to give a talk for her mom’s centennial. She told an amusing and exciting tale of leaving a children’s home in Scotland and coming to the states to join her new famous family.

Next I’m arranging for the Double R Bar Regulators to give a presentation on The Last Stand at Chimney Rock and their connection to Happy Trails Children’s Foundation, and to host a field trip to their little Western town in Lucerne Valley.

Q: Tell us about other community events you’ve participated in over the last year.

A: Over the last year I have been quite busy. My regular events include monthly meetings of the Mohahve Historical Society, CalRTA, Adelanto Retired Teachers, the Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce, as well as functions with Happy Trails and the Town of Apple Valley.

For six months of the year I volunteered two afternoons a week at Phoenix Academy in grades 3 and 4.

Besides setting up the Bascom Barn in April and May, I made a large portable display of Frankie Flash’s amazing collection of Roy Rogers Fan Club Memorabilia, which was displayed at both the Route 66 Festival and the Dale Evans Centennial.

Out at the Ranch we had a lot of work to do to prepare for Dale’s centennial celebration, which included refurbishing the museum house, as most items had been sold at auction, and adding 4-by-16 feet and four overhead lights to the stage in the barn.

I spent all of July and the first week in August giving new life to Old Town Victorville by painting murals on seven boarded-up buildings in preparation for the Route 66 Festival. The most fun was standing on roof tops in the wind and 110-degree temperatures to paint the highest panels, and going up on a lift provided by Fast Signs to paint the old metal Route 66 signs high above the street.

My biggest event was, of course, the Dale Evans Centennial. Planning started back in February for the Sept. 29 activities and banquet at Sunset Hills, three house tours and the Sept. 30 Day at the Ranch. We met monthly and sold tickets and memorabilia at many community events, the Concerts in the Courtyard and the Concerts in the Park.

The Dale weekend was quite successful and well-attended by locals, out-of-towners and Rogers family members. Three daughters, Cheryl, Mimi and Dodie, were here, as well as granddaughter Julie and her mother, and many other grandchildren, spouses, nieces and nephews. Attendees enjoyed two bands, two panels of celebrities and family members, videos, raffles, displays by Happy Trails, Western artist Katie West, Frankie Flash, Cheryl Rogers Barnett, as well as book, memorabilia and art displays. We honored Dale as an actress, singer, author, Christian and all-around unbelievably accomplished and charismatic lady who changed the world in many respects, most notably acceptance of the handicapped and international adoption.

The committee and I wanted this weekend to be extra special, realizing it may the final reason to hold a Rogers family reunion in Apple Valley, now that both funerals are long over and both Centennials have passed. The most excited relative, I think, was Dodie, who came all the way from Alabama, and truly enjoyed visiting and telling stories about the home she grew up in during her young teen years. Despite the time and effort involved in pulling this thing off, more than once realizing I was in over my head, looking back it was well worth it. Friendships were formed, connections were made and Dale’s memory was honored.

Q: What is your secret to living a happy, satisfying life?

A: My life is not always happy and satisfying. There have been a lot of ups and downs, with difficult times such as losing my husband at age 54, my mom’s battle with Alzheimer’s and other family problems. On a daily basis I desire peace, harmony, organization, accomplishment and creativity. It’s not always easy to get. But I keep pushing ahead. This year, I was honored to receive an Individual Merit Award from the California Historical Society, and am both shocked and pleased at having been nominated as a Daily Press Person of the Year.

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