John Taylor retired after a 35-year career as a nuclear engineer, systems analyst and manager at Sandia National Laboratories. He is now a local historian and author who has written extensively about the Catholic Church in the Rio Abajo and the colorful history of Valencia County.

Taylor has lived in the same house in Peralta since 1979 with his wife Lynn. They have four daughters — Tobie, Jeane, Theresa and Ashley; three granddaughters — Emma, 21, Madison, 18, Lilly, 3; one dog, three cats, one horse and seven finches.

Q What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?

A “I listen to one of several cable news networks, rehearse my barbershop music or work through some of the writing issues relative to my current history projects.”

Q What was the last gift you gave someone?

A “A professionally-rendered pencil sketch of my granddaughter’s pet dogs for her to take to college next year.”

John Taylor and his wife, Lynn, are flanked by two of their granddaughters, Madison and Emma, in this 2012 photo.

Q What were you like in high school?

A “That was a long time ago! But I would probably have been thought of as a nerd, mostly academically focused, but also played tennis and soccer and participated in a school-wide horse program.”

Q What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?

A “I can’t think of any real gut-busting events, but I am constantly looking for my glasses when they are on top of my head or trying to find my wallet, phone, car keys or checkbook when it/they are right there in plain sight. Based on the eye rolls and knowing glances from my bevy of female family members, most of my life must be pretty amusing to the outside observer.”

Q What did you want to be when you grew up?

A “I wanted to be a criminalist/criminologist from the time I was about 10 until I was in high school. And remember, this was well before any of the modern TV crime shows. In fact, it was almost before TV at all! However, I changed my mind in high school and shifted to mathematics as a target, following in the footsteps of my math-teacher father.

“That carried through into college, where I discovered that engineering was probably a better way to go. I have been very happy with my eventual choice. It led me to/through an incredible career.”

Looking to go places from a young age, local historian John Taylor is pictured here at about a year old in the family mailbox in Ojai, Calif.
Submitted photos

Q Who inspires you?

A “I am inspired by the love of my wife and the success of my children, my grandchildren and my son-in-law, Kevin.”

Q What is your birth order in your family, and do you think it influences who you are?

A “I am the oldest of three — that probably did influence me, perhaps making me a bit more outgoing or perhaps more authoritarian! I’m constantly reminded by my loving family that I’m a ‘check the box and move on’ type of person.”

Q What do you do in your free time?

A “I’m retired, so most of my time is ‘free time,’ at least by most conventional definitions. I write mostly local history — 15 books so far with a few more in the hopper. I sing in a barbershop chorus. I am in a group restoring a steam locomotive. I am a lector and usher at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Peralta. I have a horse and carriage that I drive. I have lots of ‘honey-dos’ and I read a lot. In addition, my wife and I play bridge as often as we can. We also do some traveling, mostly river cruises.”

Q What’s the most interesting thing about you?

A “I guess it’s that I have a very wide range of interests and I tend to follow up on questions and information that I get. If something interests me, it’s like a dog with a bone — I will track it down.”

John Taylor in his Civil War hat is a familiar sight, especially for those who regularly read his La Historia del Rio Abajo column in the Vale…

Q If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

A “Probably some sort of feline. I am curious and interested in most everything, I really enjoy being around other people, especially my family. However, given the number of women in my family, I would have to say that whatever breed of cat, I have been substantially declawed!”

Q You find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

A “If I found it and hadn’t bought it or been given it, I would try hard to make sure that its rightful owner got it back. Now, if I came into $10 million legitimately, I would first — after giving a huge chunk to the IRS and to Governor Lujan Grisham — make sure that my family was taken care of — mortgages, college, student loans, etc. Then I would probably donate most of it to various causes that I am passionate about, e.g., the train restoration project, my high school’s endowment fund, etc.”

As a part of a group dedicated to restoring a steam locomotive, John Taylor proudly poses in his “dress uniform, ” which the group typically wears when they are working on the locomotive restoration and hosting VIPs.

Q Who is your best friend and why?

A “My wife for sure! After her, I would list a former Sandia colleague, Bob Ghormley, with whom I have shared many deep conversations while running thousands of miles during lunchtimes over more than 20 years at Sandia Labs.”

Q What’s your favorite song to sing when you’re alone?

A “I have a large repertoire of barbershop songs that circulate in my head — I believe the correct phrase is ‘ear worms’ — almost all the time.”

Q Where is your happy place, and why?

A “I love to be at home with my wife, a warm fire, a good book and a Diet Coke, which I am discouraged from drinking by my entire family!”

Q Have you had a life-changing experience that led you to where you are today?

A “Probably the death of my first child. That experience was the first real personal tragedy that I had suffered, and I think it has made me more empathetic to others and to appreciate the many blessings that I have had throughout my life.”

This photo from 1973 was taken right after local historian John Taylor completed Navy nuclear power training, before he was assigned to his fi…

Q What teacher had the greatest impact on you?

A “My junior high school history and English teacher, Bill Long. He encouraged me to read broadly and think deeply, habits I continue to this day.”

Q If you could live in any other time, when might that be and why?

A “I’m actually pretty happy where I am! The ‘olden times’ were not all that golden, what with disease and really brutal conflicts. However, if I could have a bird’s eye view to look back into history, I think I’d have to choose between two.

“I would love go WAY back and watch how the first human language actually developed. Secondly, I would love to be a fly on the wall at the Council of Nicea in 325 to watch the interplay of the bishops and the emperor as the course of modern Christianity was set.”

Q If you could have dinner with one famous person from history, who would it be?

A “I have always been fascinated by the Roman Emperor Constantine. By his actions, particularly at the Council of Nicea in 325, he essentially determined the theological basis for and the future course of Catholicism and Christianity that persists to this day. On the other hand, I’m not sure what we would eat at this dinner. I understand that folks in that day were particularly fond of eel which does not appeal to me at all!”

John Taylor, pictured in back, with his family, from bottom left, daughter, Ashley, wife, Lynn, and daughters, Jeane, Theresa and Tobie.

Q What are you most proud of?

A “I am most proud of my family. Either because of or in spite of my efforts, they have all turned out to be happy, successful, productive members of society.”

Q How would you like to be remembered?

A “As a spouse/parent/grandparent who always tried to do the right thing for the right reason, as a thoughtful Catholic Christian, and as an engineer/scientist who worked hard to make a difference in U.S. national security.”

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