Thursday, May 26, 2016


Many people I've met have had a favorite uncle, a sometimes mysterious, romantic character who seemed as if he came out of a novel.

Mine was my late uncle, Zenas Howland Taylor.

He was born in Faribault, Minnesota in 1899.

But he moved to California, probably in the 1920's and spent the rest of his life in San Francisco.

About his name.

He was named for an ancestor, Zenas Howland (actually there were two of them in that family tree) who was a direct descendant of John Howland of the Mayflower group.

Zeke, as my dad sometimes called him, was an accountant and eventually became the head accountant for San Francisco's Water Department.

For the youngsters who may be reading here, those devices in front of him were an adding machine, a forerunner to today's computers, and a dial telephone.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor Zenas enlisted in the army (at age 42) and served in Burma and India.

Many in the family thought he was crazy to join the army at his age but he felt he had a patriotic duty.

His nickname in the army was "Pops".

He was a sergeant when he was discharged.

During his lifetime in San Francisco, Zenas joined the Olympic Club and won many medals in swimming competitions.

From what I've heard, he was also a pretty good handball player.

He was a bit of a "health nut", swimming in San Francisco Bay year round, hiking in Yosemite Park and worshipping the sun whenever he could.

He told me once that he used to spend 15 or 20 minutes sunning on top of the downtown Olympic Club during his noon lunch hours whenever the sky was clear.

But in his later years, perhaps dating back to his days in Burma and India, he also enjoyed a daquiri with his wife before dinner each evening.

He was 83 when he died.


  1. What an interesting character your uncle was.


  2. He was Hollywood handsome too. An amazing life that would be the envy of many. Great post and terrific photos.

  3. He looks familiar, a movie star, can't put my finger on it.

    Quite a guy.

  4. Wonderful, and fascinating to read. do you happen to have all this info and pictures on him, does your family document each person so carefully?

    1. Photography (snapshot variety) seems to have been a favored hobby of nearly everyone in our extended family. I got most of the ones of Zenas after he and later his wife died.

  5. That first picture...he looks like a CIA operative. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  6. Sounds like he had a most interesting life, never wasting a minute. :)


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