Joe Max Taylor, retired Sheriff of Galveston County, passed away on Sunday, February 10, at the Meridian with his loving family at his side. Although his health had declined over the past 3 years, he always found joy in seeing his family and friends.
Joe Max was born on November 5, 1932 in Tyler, Texas. His parents, Joe Britton Taylor and Bonnie Reel Taylor, lived most of their lives in East Texas, and Joe Max graduated from Rusk High School in 1951. He was an outstanding athlete and played football and basketball during his high school years. He was always called Joe Max. He might not respond if you called him Joe.
Joe Max joined the Air Force after graduation and served in San Antonio and in Alaska, being discharged in 1955. He met and married his wife of 63 years, Anita Menotti, through a mutual friend in December, 1954. Her family was well-known in Galveston. After his discharge he moved to Galveston, where his parents were living. Anita and Joe Max began dating and by October, he was ready to get married and they got engaged. They were married at St. Mary’s Cathedral. They celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary this past December. They have 4 grown children, 10 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. Many Christmas Eves were spent at the family home and he wanted everyone there. He loved having all the grandchildren there. This past December, we celebrated Christmas early so all the family could attend. A Christmas Dinner was at Mario’s on the Seawall, with almost 35 family members. We even had a visit from Santa for the young ones. Another great love was his love for Blue Bell Ice Cream. He and Rudy Teichman would always enjoy trying to outdo each other as to who had more Cookies and Cream in their freezer.
Joe Max was an avid gardener. He developed his fondness for plants and flowers from Anita’s mother, Eleanor Menotti. Together they would have beautiful gardens and she taught him how to plant seeds, and then transplant the tiny plants in flower beds. She taught him when to plant, and where to put them in the right spot to get the best sunlight. He later began his love affair with Sego Palms and loved to grow them for his yard. His gardens often won Yard of the Month at many of his homes. He enjoyed working in his yard until double knee replacements forced him to just supervise his gardeners. Still, he always had a beautiful yard and was always happiest with a shovel in one hand and a plant in the other.
Joe Max’s career with the Sheriff’s Department began in 1957, when he was hired by newly elected Sheriff, Paul Hopkins. Hopkins was looking for someone with administrative abilities and Joe Max went to work to handle the mounds of paperwork that went thru the Sheriff’s Office. In his early days with the Sheriff’s Department, he attended many night classes at the University of Houston that were taught by Houston Police Department Staff. Later, he attended a school at Southern Methodist University where he brought many ideas back to the Sheriff’s Department, especially in setting up Organization Charts and Chain of Command methods. He attended a program at the FBI Academy on Dignitary Protection when George H.W. Bush became President. After his retirement, President Bush loved to come to Galveston to fish. Joe Max provided additional security for him as he fished in his favorite spots. He had close personal friendships with Law Enforcement individuals throughout the state and federal circles during his professional career.
Spending so much time with setting up departments did not keep Joe Max and Anita from starting a family. Son number one came along in March of 1958, followed by a daughter in April of 1961. Another son and daughter joined the family and by January of 1965 they were proud parents of 4 children. Their children attend Catholic Schools in Galveston with all four graduating from O’Connell High School.
The years of raising a young family kept Anita & Joe Max busy. Both were active in PTAs and fundraising was the norm for this family. Girl Scout cookies and church festivals kept this young family busy, and Joe Max was a familiar sight at the O’Connell football games and helping out with the cheerleaders and Bucco Bells in his red patent leather boots. Other family activities included going to New Braunfels to ride the rapids with Norma and Sonny Nelson, and Kay and Ron Potts. The three couples would take a group of their children’s friends and spend a long weekend there.
Joe Max enjoyed playing tennis in the Men’s League at the Galveston Racquet Club and was a fierce competitor. He and Anita played doubles every weekend with Sara and Harold Levy, and Andrea and Carroll Sunseri. His days of playing football, basketball, and later tennis took a toll on his knees, forcing a double knee replacement in 1992. His other major health issue was a quadruple bypass. After that his exercise routine consisted of bike riding on the Seawall and walking his beloved Westie, Scottie. Joe Max was a loyal Longhorn supporter, loved music and he loved Willie Nelson. He also enjoyed the Biker Rally each year, and was actively involved with Mardi Gras every year. He enjoyed riding on the Landry’s floats and fire truck. He and Anita always attended Tilman and Paige Fertitta’s San Luis Ball and for many years they celebrated Mardi Gras with former classmate from East Texas, Jim and Margaret Perkins. Carolyn Gaido and Rusty Eversberg, a longtime friend of Jim Perkins, joined them for many years to celebrate Mardi Gras. They especially loved walking the parade route with the Philadelphia Mummers.
Although Joe Max did not grow up in Galveston, he immediately made friends with Anita’s sorority, the TDBs, and their husbands, a wonderful group of friends for over 50 years. A night out would usually be dinner with Joy and Vic Fertitta. He enjoyed visiting Missy and Phillip in California for Thanksgiving. This gave them a chance to visit with Phillip’s parents, Betty and Bill Cameron.
Joe Max didn’t have too many challenges with a young Sheriff’s Department. Charles Wiley and Eddie Barr gave him many good years of service, but occasionally they liked to play a joke on him, and this kept Joe Max on his toes. They were great friends before Joe Max retired and remained that way. Both visited him several times at the Meridian, and he was always thrilled to see them.
The Taylors also enjoyed traveling to many destinations with B.J. and Buddy Herz, and Betty and Gene Lucas. Rome, Italy, Paris, Hong Kong and Australia were just a few of the wonderful places they visited. Later after retirement, Joe Max and Anita went on a cruise from Barcelona and Portugal. They also did a motor trip along the East Coast, visiting Boston and seeing so many other cities. Joe Max was especially thrilled to see the home of Kathryn Hepburn, a favorite actress of his. A sports fan, he enjoyed basketball and was able to attend numerous Final Four Tournaments for many years, bringing home shirts and caps for all the family.
Joe max was honored at a banquet as a Man of Vision. Jim and Margaret Perkins honored him with Joe Max Taylor Day in Rusk. Numerous buses and motor homes transported over 200 department staff and families for a barbeque in the Perkins Home in Rusk. They also invited the many families that Joe Max knew and went to school with. In 2006, Jim Yarborough and Eddie Janek led the Commissioners Court in naming the new law enforcement facility after Joe Max, which he considered a great tribute.
In June of 2016, he suffered from a reaction to an antibiotic that resulted in anaphylactic shock. He was on respirator for 4 days and spent 5 weeks recovering in rehab and at home. After that his health began to decline and he was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment which eventually led to dementia, and the family moved him to the Meridian in February, 2017, for skilled nursing care. His day was filled with visitors, reading the newspaper, and watching Gunsmoke, Big Valley, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. He loved the Hallmark Channels for their Christmas shows.
We cannot adequately express our appreciation to Jay Balentine, (a longtime friend of the Taylors, and their son, Troy,) and the dedicated staff at the Meridian. We were there almost two years, and Joe Max received such wonderful care from a staff who tended to his every need. Anita eventually sold their home and moved to the Meridian Independent Living Apartments. She joined Joe Max for an evening meal and to watch television every day. Our sincere gratitude to Sue Cantini and Brian Kusnerik who brought him the Blessed Sacrament every week and prayed with him often. They also helped make the arrangements for him to receive a blessing and anointing. Special thanks to Renee Spoons and Roderick Carroll, who were with him every day and understood his needs and gave him such loving care. Every day Renee helped Joe Max pick out his clothes, and Rod helped select the pajamas. The family cannot thank them enough for their loving care and concern for him during such an extremely emotional time for the family.
Joe Max was preceded in death by his parents, Britt and Bonnie Reel Taylor, and Anita’s parents, Louis and Eleanor Saracco Menotti.
Joe Max is survived by his wife of 63 years, Anita Menotti Taylor, whose family were well known in Galveston. They celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary this past December. They have four children: Joe Max Taylor, Jr., Melanie Taylor Mencacci and husband Malcolm Joseph Mencacci, Troy Menotti Taylor and wife Susan Fooks Taylor, Missy Taylor Cameron and husband Phillip M. Cameron; ten grandchildren: Melissa Taylor, Cathryn Taylor, Kelly Taylor, KerryAnn French, Malcolm Joseph Mencacci, Jr., Megan Mencacci Reyes, Hayden Fooks Taylor, Mitchell Menotti Taylor, Duncan MacDonald Cameron, Chase Alden Cameron; seven great-grandchildren: Max Taylor, Mason Taylor, Ava French, Maddy French, Matthew French, Raymond Taylor Reyes, Ryker Reyes; sister, Kay Taylor Burnett of Naples, Florida; brother John Taylor and wife Susan Taylor; sisters-in-law: Loretta Menotti Perez, Marie Menotti Bolton and husband Virgil Bolton of Palestine, Texas; brother-in-law, Louis Menotti, Jr. and wife Susan Menotti of Centerville, Texas, along with many nieces and nephews.
Joe Max’s family will receive visitors beginning at 4:30 pm, Monday, February 18, at the Galveston Island Convention Center, 5600 Seawall Blvd. A rosary will begin at 7:00 pm.
Joe Max will lie in state at the Joe Max Taylor Law Enforcement Center, 601 54th street, from 9:30 am until 12:00 noon on Tuesday, February 19. Funeral service will begin at 1:00 pm at the Galveston Island Convention Center. Burial will be private.
Pallbearers are Malcolm Joseph Mencacci, Jr., Hayden Fooks Taylor, Mitchell Menotti Taylor, Duncan MacDonald Cameron, Chase Alden Cameron, Jay W. Balentine and Todd R. Fertitta.
Honorary pallbearers are Tilman J. Fertitta, Vic Fertitta, Sheriff Henry Trochesset, Jim Yarbrough, Charles Wiley, Jim Perkins, Eddie Janek, Eddie Barr, Tony Munoz, Brian Teichman, and posthumously Rudy Teichman.
Memorials may be made to Holy Family Parish, O’Connell College Preparatory School, the Galveston Island Humane Society, or the Texas Fallen Officer Foundation.