S. Joe Taylor

Published 1:27 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2024

S. Joe Taylor, age 76, went home to be with his Lord and Savior on January 13, 2024, at the Johnson City Medical Center following a brief illness. A nearly life-long resident of Elizabethton, he had been living for the past six months at Abundant Christian Living in Johnson City. 


Joe was born July 9, 1947, in Elizabethton to the late Horty and Edith Taylor. His high school sweetheart and wife of 55 years, Shirley Grindstaff Taylor, preceded him in death on July 1, 2022, and now they are reunited once again in Heaven. He is survived by his precious daughter, Jessica Leanne, who was his pride, joy, and the light of his life. 

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A proud Vietnam Veteran, Joe loved his family, country and community. Joe began working at Tetrick Funeral Home in 1965 as a “night boy,” sleeping at the funeral home overnight to answer calls. He became manager in 1980 until his retirement in 2018, having served thousands of families in Carter County with dedication and distinction. Joe had a servant’s heart, always put others’ needs before his own, and saw serving grieving families as his calling from Christ. 


Joe was known throughout Elizabethton as an honest, hardworking and compassionate businessman and community leader. He never met a stranger, and would sit down beside someone and know their entire life story in under five minutes. Joe truly cared about people, and he couldn’t enter a restaurant or a store without coming across someone he knew or encountering a family he had helped through the death of a loved one. His sense of humor was legendary, and his laugh was infectious. He always had a joke at the ready and loved to tell stories about his work as a funeral director. Joe loved spending time with the large, extended Taylor family and was incredibly close with his four siblings, who once all shared an attic bedroom in their home on Allen Avenue. 


Joe graduated from Elizabethton High School in 1965. He continued to work at Tetrick and took classes at East Tennessee State University before he joined the U.S. Army in 1966. Joe and Shirley were married on December 20, 1966. They were then stationed in Fort Carson, Colo. Joe deployed to Vietnam from 1968-69, where he served in Cam Ranh Bay in the military medical corps. He was honorably discharged in 1972 after attaining the rank of SP5. 


After leaving the Army, Joe returned to Elizabethton to work at Tetrick before moving to Texas to attend Dallas Institute of Mortuary Science, where he graduated with honors. After school, he returned to work at Tetrick for two years, then served at Gentry Funeral Home in Mountain City for two years. In 1974, Joe and Shirley moved to Etowah, Tenn., where he worked for Bordwine Funeral Home for six years. In 1980, the Taylors returned to their hometown of Elizabethton and to Tetrick Funeral Home. Joe also often volunteered to transport late veterans to Arlington National Cemetery for burial, a true honor for him which blended his military and mortuary service. 


After praying for a child for nearly 20 years, Shirley gave birth to Jessica on June 16, 1985 — which was also Father’s Day, cementing Jessica’s status as a “Daddy’s Girl” forever. Joe never failed to tell anyone he met how Jessica was born on Father’s Day, and was a devoted dad and doted on Jessica. He and Shirley were active in the East Side Elementary PTA and the Elizabethton High School Band Boosters, working in the football concessions and as chaperones on band trips. He helped move Jessica in and out of dorm rooms at Furman University and apartments in Washington D.C., and the two made frequent trips to visit her. As Jessica’s career as a political journalist progressed, he bragged to everyone he met about her work and would record her TV appearances and call and alert friends when she was going to be on air. 


In his free time, Joe enjoyed gardening and mowing his yard. His perfectly manicured lawn, flowers and dogwood and evergreen trees were the envy of Erie Lane for many decades. He also was a passionate fan of the Tennessee Volunteers and attended every home football game in Neyland Stadium during their 1998 National Championship season. Joe enjoyed watching Westerns on TV as well. He watched Jeopardy every night, and afterwards would call Jessica and they would play the extra Jeopardy questions on Alexa on the phone together.  


Joe was an active and devoted member of Grace Baptist Church, where he had served as a deacon and on several committees. He loved the Lord and his church family. He and Shirley were previously active members of North Etowah Baptist Church in the 1970s. 


Those left to cherish Joe’s memory include his beloved daughter, Jessica Leanne Taylor, of Alexandria, Va.; his siblings and their spouses: Dr. Bob and Joan Taylor of Indianapolis, Ind.; Janet and Dr. David Reed, of Springfield, Tenn.; Mike and Peggy Taylor of Piney Flats, Tenn.; Ken and Barbara Taylor of Hermitage, Tenn.; and a sister-in-law, Judy Walker, of Gray, Tenn. Several nieces and nephews also survive. He was also beloved by special friends Dennis and Linda Bordwine, Jack and Lynne Hamilton, Janice and the late Wayne Murray Sr., Trilla and the late Buddy Little, the late Rev. Ron Owens, his Vietnam buddy Jerome Browning, special caregiver Sandra Smithey and many, many more. He also adored his granddog, Smokey. 


The family will receive friends at Tetrick Funeral Home, Elizabethton, on Saturday, January 20, 2024, from 2 until 5 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Sunday, January 21, 2024, at 3 p.m. at Grace Baptist Church Elizabethton. The Celebration of Life will be under the direction of Dr. Travis Tyler, with eulogies from Mr. Dennis Bordwine and Mr. Richard Tetrick. Music will be under the direction of Laura Seagroves and Joe’s great-nieces, Amelia and Reagan Brown. 


Grace Baptist Church will livestream Joe’s service on their website, please visit this link to view

the service on Sunday: Funeral for Joe Taylor – Grace Baptist Church Elizabethton



A graveside service for Joe will be held Monday, January 22, 2024, at 11 a.m. at the Mountain Home National Cemetery Historic Section, 53 Memorial Ave., Mountain Home, TN, 37684. Military honors will be accorded by DAV Chapter 39 Honor Guard.  Those who wish to attend should meet at the cemetery in Johnson City at 10:45 a.m. Active pallbearers will be Jay Michael and Jackson Taylor, Wayne Murray Jr. and Anthony Murray, Bill Carter, Gary Kemp and David Blackburn. Honorary pallbearers are the present and past staff of Tetrick Funeral Home and the deacons of Grace Baptist Church. 


For those who wish to make a contribution in lieu of flowers, the Taylor family requests that donations in Joe’s memory be made to either the Elizabethton High School “Betsy Band” Boosters, PO Box 2113, Elizabethton, TN, 37644 or to Grace Baptist Church, 1114 Broad St, Elizabethton, TN 37643.

Words of love and sympathy may be sent to the family through the funeral home website, www.tetrickfuneralhome.com. Tetrick Funeral Home-Riverside Chapel-Elizabethton, (423) 542-2232 is honored to serve the family of S. Joe Taylor.