Bridge over Table Rock Lake named after late state senator

Thursday, October 23, 2008
A special memorial celebration was held near the Highway 39 Bridge in Shell Knob in honor of Senator Larry Gene Taylor on Oct. 17. During the event, Taylor's widow, Gay, unveiled a sign that dedicates the bridge to Taylor, who passed away in July of 2005. Democrat Photo

On Oct. 17, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) representatives, state officials and local community members gathered at the Highway 39 Bridge in Shell Knob to honor the late Senator Larry Gene Taylor. During the ceremony, signs were unveiled that dedicate the landmark bridge to Larry, who passed away in July of 2005.

"Thank you everyone for coming out," said Larry's wife, Gay. "This is such a tribute to Larry. I appreciate everyone that came.

"Larry first brought me to Shell Knob in 1970," said Gay. "We came back in 1995, and Shell Knob became our home. For both of us, every time we came across that bridge we knew we were in heaven. I appreciate all that you have done. Thank you."

The Highway 39 Bridge was dedicated to Taylor in honor of his public service. Only a few individuals receive the special honor of having a bridge named after them each year, said Becky Boltz, of MoDOT.

"This type of memorial tells me a couple things about a person," said Boltz. "It tells me that the person was well respected by others and very service oriented. Larry's family has a long history in public service that showed him how to put his country and state before himself."

The dedication ceremony included an address by Rep. Jim Viebrock, who put forth the bill to honor his long-time friend and colleague.

"Larry had a short career as an elected official but a long history in politics," said Viebrock. "His dad, of course, was the late Congressman Gene Taylor. Congressman Taylor's time in Washington afforded Larry the opportunity to learn from the best minds in our nation's Capitol. His youth was exciting and full of adventure."

Larry began his public service when he was appointed public affairs director for the Office of Missouri State Treasurer by Wendell Bailey. In 2002, Larry was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives.

Viebrock met Larry shortly after arriving in Jefferson City in 2003. Both men were running for the office of freshman class president.

"Within days I found myself welcomed into perhaps the most intense and exhilarating training sessions of my life," said Viebrock. "Not only was I thrust into the straight up learning curve of a freshman legislator, but found myself hanging on every word of comprehensive political wisdom coming from Larry Taylor. Little did I know that those teachings would, in later battles, guide me boldly and confidently.

"I watched with earnest every move Larry made," said Viebrock. "I saw first hand how the members of both chambers, on both sides of the aisle, respected Larry. I saw how he was able to use that respect to get many things accomplished, under the radar and without the confrontations of standard legislative practice. I felt I was in just the first grade of what he had to teach when he passed."

In addition to speaking of Larry's achievements as a congressman and senator, Viebrock shared thoughts on his friend as a caring family man and community member.

"Larry never looked down his nose at anyone," said Viebrock. "He always looked for the positive way. Today his spirit lives on, not only in me, but also in everyone his life touched. I have a photo on my wall behind my desk of Larry in my Capitol office. It's just a subtle reminder that he is always looking over my shoulder."

According to Viebrock, the Highway 39 Bridge was selected to honor Larry because it is located near Larry's home and was referenced in many of his humorous stories.

"This legislation, when first proposed, was signed by every member of the Missouri House of Representatives," said Viebrock. "The clerk's office has told me that has never happened before. Just another example of how much Senator Taylor was respected in the legislature."

Senator Jack Goodman, who sponsored the memorial bill in the Missouri Senate, also spoke at the dedication ceremony.

"The thing about Larry that struck me early on was his fondness of the people who he represented and his affirmation to be with and talk to the people who he represented," said Goodman. "He didn't forget anyone, and if he knew of someone in need, he would try to find a way to address their issue."

Goodman shared one of his favorite memories of Larry, which was when Goodman's car stalled on the side of a busy state highway and Larry drove 45 minutes to pick up Goodman, his wife and child and then drove them home before going home to his own family.

"The biggest sacrifice Larry made on that day was that he didn't smoke all the way to our home because the baby was in the car," said Goodman. "He didn't say anything about it and we didn't ask but it was noticed and appreciated."

Senator Gary Nodler, one of Larry's oldest friends, used his keynote address to thank all of the individuals who he felt his friend would thank if able to.

"Although Larry wouldn't have sought this type of honor, he would have been thankful," said Nodler. "Larry understood the people of his district, and he brought a humor to the table. Thank you all for taking the time to come here, remember him and participate in this presentation."

Larry's accomplishments as a Missouri congressman included: vice chairman on Tourism and Cultural Affairs Committee; majority member of the House Committee on Appropriations for Transportation and Economic Development; House Committee on Job Creation; and Economic Development and Republican Policy Development Committee.

Larry was elected as the State Senator of the 29th Senatorial District in November of 2004. His accomplishments in the Senate included: vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism and Local Government; Senate Committees on Aging, Families, Mental and Public Health; Ways and Means; and Aging.

Larry was a past president of the Barry County Republican Club, member of the Shell Knob Lions Club and a 32nd Degree Mason and Shriner.

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