SIERRA VISTA — Robert Vance Taylor, Lt. Col., (Ret)., United States Army October 30, 1928 — January 24, 2021.
A resident of Sierra Vista for 50 years, Robert Taylor passed away while hospitalized with Covid-19 in Tucson. An Arizona native, born in Florence, raised in Coolidge and Globe, he graduated from Coolidge High School in 1946. Until college, he and his sister Liz never attended a school without their father being either principal or superintendent. He attended the University of Arizona and was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity there. He married Ruth Elaine Johnson on December 28, 1950. She was raised in Yuma and was a career elementary school teacher. Together they successfully raised a family of five children. Because of his professional military career, their children were born in four different states and one foreign country. That constant change of home and school (17 moves during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, including 11 years posted overseas) demonstrated strong flexibility and organization skills they taught their children. Ruth passed away in 2005.
Robert attended Officer Candidate School in 1952, receiving his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. In 1962 he was assigned to Army Intelligence while a Captain. In his capacity as Imagery Analyst under CIA operational control, he was a member of a team who located and reported the presence of Soviet offensive missiles in Cuba. The exactness and timeliness of their reporting allowed President Kennedy to bring sufficient pressure on the Soviet leaders to cause them to withdraw the missiles. Later, in Southeast Asia, his team was first to discover the North Vietnamese efforts to construct a road network, which extended from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia to the border regions of South Vietnam. This road network became known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Lt. Col. Taylor’s knowledge of photographic imagery systems allowed him to be the first Army officer to realize the potential national systems had to also satisfy tactical commanders’ requirements. During subsequent assignments in Vietnam and Europe, he began a long crusade which eventually ensured that products from national collection endeavors were made available to tactical commanders in the field in a timely manner. After retirement in 1972, he remained at Fort Huachuca as a civilian developing new methods to bring national imagery to tactical commanders, including origins of our current GPS system. His designs served the nation well during Operation Desert Storm. He designed a related project for Space Shuttle Flight 44 in 1991. Based upon his demonstrated skill, persistence, and results, the Army inducted him in the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1999. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, National Defense Medal, and the Vietnamese Medal of Valor. He received the Department of the Army Superior Civilian Service Award, the first civilian employed at the Intelligence Center to receive this recognition.
In his post career rather than just “take it easy”, Robert began a whole new chapter in life when he married Janell Robin Newton in 2006. The two have been inseparable in their travels and enjoyment of a large extended family. Active in the United Church of Christ as well as many local community activities, ‘Bob and Jan’ were a common sight throughout Sierra Vista and hosted many friends and colleagues in their own backyard. Bob was a lifelong avid storyteller. They traveled extensively in Arizona and across many states, even while Jan ran her own small business from home.
Bob is survived by his devoted wife of 15 years, Janell Taylor of Sierra Vista, and his children: Michael Taylor of Tucson, Charles Taylor of Flagstaff, Terese Taylor Doordan of Santa Barbara, California, Elena Taylor Hartman of Tucson, and Scott Taylor of San Antonio, Texas. Also surviving him are five grandchildren: Ronica Taylor, Stephen Taylor, and Thomas Puertas, of San Antonio, Texas: Jennifer Hartman Benedetto of Phoenix, and Cole Crimi of Longmont, Colorado. His sister, Elizabeth Taylor Cisterna of Phoenix, and brother-in-law, Robert L. Johnson of Hillsborough, California, also survives as well as two great-grandchildren, Eliana and Olivia Benedetto of Phoenix. Surviving nieces and nephews include Sandra Johnson, Susan Johnson, and Joan Johnson Miller, all of California, and Mark Rodzen and Scott Rodzen of Arizona. Also surviving are several Newton step grandchildren in Arizona who looked up to Bob. As Covid took Bob’s life, so will the pandemic delay his memorial services until they become a celebratory party on Bob’s next birthday date, Saturday, October 30, 2021. That service will take place at the Sierra Vista United Church of Christ at 11am. The celebration of life will follow at high noon. Bob always did use any excuse to hold a good party. He will be interred at the Southern Arizona Memorial Veterans Cemetery. If you wish to make a donation in his memory, consider the SV United Church of Christ.