RIP, Alyson

Alyson L. Taylor-White passed away on June 15, 2019. This is a hard loss, and the community will miss her dearly.

I’ll remember Alyson for many things. I first met her in 2015 when she signed a contract with The History Press to publish Shockoe Hill Cemetery: A Richmond Landmark History, which she would release in 2017. We met at the Library of Virginia (of course) for coffee and swapped notes on the cemetery’s history. She was full of ideas and stories and optimism. She was able to fold all those into her engaging book, which she wrote in her own folksy way. Chapter one, for example, is titled “So What’s A Shockoe?”

I remember Alyson more vividly from the tours I took with her in the cemeteries. There, Alyson shone particularly bright. She loved introducing visitors to historic places. She loved the humanity of great lives and curious questions that could be found in the burial grounds. One cold day we were with a tour in Hebrew Cemetery, and shortly after Alyson began, she received a text message with some urgent news that would call her away mid-tour. But she was so reluctant to leave, stopping to give us one more story, and then one more story, on the way out. It is the image I’ll hold of her.

I also got to see her give public lectures celebrating her book’s release. Frequently I’m jealous of other speakers’ styles, and never was this more true than with Alyson. She stood before her capacity crowds and held them effortlessly in her hands, looking as happy as a clam. We presented together on a panel at the Virginia Forum annual conference in 2017, and she made that room her own, too.

Alyson’s writing also appeared regularly on the Shockoe Examiner. It was always fun to see her mix things up there.

There will be a celebration of her life on Wednesday July 17th at 10:00am, at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. She’ll always have a place there, and with us.

As she concluded in her book, “The future of the past is up to us today.”

Alyson Taylor-White in the center of the circle at Hebrew Cemetery