Thomas Troy Taylor, huntsman for the Middleburg Hunt, died in a motorcycle accident Sept. 8. He was 39.
Taylor, of Middleburg, was remembered by friends as a gregarious outdoorsman with a generous spirit. The father of two boys was passionate about the things he loved: his family and hunting.
Taylor, who went by his middle name, Troy, began fox-hunting as a teenager with friends in Jackson, Mich., said Christopher Knoedler, a longtime friend. "Growing up, all of his buddies and close neighbors hunted. It was all part of being a country kid," Knoedler said.
Taylor graduated from high school in Jackson in 1984 and attended Michigan State University for two years. His love of the outdoors drew him to Arizona, Colorado and Montana, where he worked as a cowboy.
In 1988, Taylor became kennelman at the Waterloo Hunt in Grass Lake, Mich. His natural ability quickly propelled him to huntsman there, where he was in charge of raising, training and leading the hounds, Knoedler said.
"The hounds are like an orchestra and the huntsman is like the conductor. Everyone is capable in and of themselves, but they need someone to guide them," Knoedler said.
In 1994, Taylor moved to Tennessee, where he was huntsman for the Mells Foxhounds in Pulaski. His goal, however, was to move to Virginia, known by enthusiasts as the capital of fox-hunting in the United States, Knoedler said. Taylor's dream came true in 1996, when at age 29, he was offered a job as huntsman for the Middleburg Hunt, one of the top clubs in the country.
The huntsman is a skilled hunter and rider who guides the hounds with a horn. Taylor raised, trained and guided the club's 100 tricolor American foxhounds.
"You could just tell after the first few times we met with him how gifted he was," said Penny Denegre, joint master of the Middleburg Hunt, who hired Taylor. "We put him on a horse and he went out into the country. . . . He pretended his hounds were all around him. He loved his hounds, and his hounds loved him."
Jeffrey Blue, joint master of the Middleburg Hunt, said, "He had been here for two days, and he knew every hound by name and sight."
Fox-hunting is a British tradition that came to the United States in the 1600s. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were avid fox hunters.
There are about 170 hunt clubs in the United States, with about 20,000 fox hunters nationwide. Hunting season runs September to March, and hunts generally take place three times a week.
"It's a great way to be outdoors and with friends, but when it comes down to it, it's about the houndwork," Blue said. "[Taylor] knew that, he was purist, but he also knew that people were out there to have a good time and he made sure they did."
In his spare time, Taylor shared his love of all things outdoors with his sons Colt, 12, and Connor, 9: fishing, turkey-hunting and cruising the countryside to watch game. He also coached his sons' inline skating and hockey teams.
He will be remembered as someone who shared his passion for life with everyone he encountered, Denegre said.
"He touched so many lives through all the things he did, the coaching, his boys' school, foxhunting," she said. "People have approached me that I didn't even know he knew. They've come up and said how much they're going to miss him."
In addition to his sons, Taylor is survived by his wife of 13 years, Pamela; his stepsons, Clint Burlett of Middleburg and Chase Burlett of Harrison, Mich.; and his mother, Josephine Taylor of Jackson, Mich.
A memorial service was scheduled for Friday at Goodstone Inn in Middleburg with huntsmen in formal attire: riding breeches, a black helmet, boots and a red or black coat.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to: Troy Taylor Memorial Fund, Middleburg Bank, PO Box 5, Middleburg, Va. 20118.