B.E. Taylor Leaves A Legacy of Love in the Ohio Valley

Musician gave back to the community

B.E. Taylor performs during a Christmas show.

WHEELING — B.E. Taylor’s breakout regional hit 35 years ago was “Vitamin L,” and most people know the “L” stands for love, something the Wheeling singer spent his lifetime sharing not only with his fans, but also with those less fortunate.

Taylor, who died Sunday at the age of 65 from complications from an inoperable brain tumor, is being remembered this week by family, fans and friends throughout the tri-state region for his contributions that go well beyond his signature Christmas music.

Born William Edward Taylor in Aliquippa, Pa., he was called “Billy Eddie” by his mother, which eventually was shortened to “B.E.” He moved to Wheeling with his wife, Veronica (DeBlasis) Taylor, in the mid-1980s, calling the city home for the past 30 years.

Through sharing his gift of music, Taylor supported many causes, including the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, Special Olympics, Pittsburgh School for the Blind, Toys for Tots, March of Dimes, Project Bundle Up, House of the Carpenter, and the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling.

“Every year, he would donate a portion of the ticket sales from the Wheeling Christmas concert,” said Becky Shilling-Rodocker, the soup kitchen’s executive director. “He was always a huge supporter — personally, too,” she said, adding his regular contributions pre-date her 17 years at the facility.

She said Taylor would present the Christmas concert check to her in person and individually greet and chat with clients. They were thrilled, she noted, to meet the local celebrity. She said he made a point not to have his picture taken with them for publication, however, so as not to exploit them.

“You always knew what a compassionate person he was and his empathy for the people he was helping. … I think that was just a part of who he was as a human being,” Shilling-Rodocker said. “He was one of the most compassionate, big-hearted men I’ve ever met.”

He and some of his Christmas band members, including Rick Witkowski of Weirton, performed a concert every year for sick children at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. In Wheeling, Taylor and Witkowski entertained children at Holy Family Child Care Center and the former Orchard Park Day Care. Taylor helped pen a theme song for a YWCA Wheeling children’s art program along with performing at several YWCA events. He sang nearly every year at the Wheeling St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraisers.

“You’ll never find anybody more gracious and generous,” said Jody Miller, mother of the late Heather Miller, who went to St. Michael School and Wheeling Park High School with Taylor’s son and daughter, B.C. and Tahnee.

As a favor to Miller, Taylor sang Heather’s favorite song, The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” at her graveside service. Every year, he did an encore of it at the Heather Miller Memorial Golf Classic that funds nursing scholarships.

Miller said Monday she was concerned when Taylor didn’t show up at this year’s scramble on July 27. When she found out the date he died, she realized it would have been her daughter’s 30th birthday.

“He was just so positive and outgoing,” said fellow musician Roger Hoard of St. Clairsville, who performed for a few years on Taylor’s Christmas tour and recorded with him. Asked what he thinks is Taylor’s legacy, he said: “Love. He loved everybody, and he loved music.”

“Vitamin L” wasn’t his only song touting love. One of his most popular original Christmas songs is “Feel the Love of Christmas,” in which he encourages people to take the charitable love that abounds at Christmas and share it throughout the year.

His love song, “Love You All Over Again,” from his “Try Love” CD, was written as an anniversary gift for his wife, Veronica. Nationally syndicated radio host Delilah picked it up, and it became a popular dedication on her nighttime show.

Taylor made it clear that the love he shared stemmed from his Christian faith. He has said he purposely kept his Christmas shows and albums focused on the hymns and carols that celebrate Christ’s birth because, as he titled another of his original songs, “Jesus Is the Reason” for the season.

In 2008, the Pittsburgh Ballet commissioned a world premiere featuring live performances of Taylor’s original love ballads. Taylor was awarded the Duquesne University Lifetime Achievement Award and was a Distinguished West Virginian.

B.C. Taylor noted Monday in a nearly four-minute Facebook video that it was his dad’s faith that kept him going since he was first diagnosed with the tumor in March 2007.

B.C. Taylor said during every performance, every public appearance — every smile — of his father’s over the past 10 years, the musician was battling the tumor, proving that “love and faith are stronger than any disease or any situation that you could find yourself in.”

“I was blessed enough to have the best example that there is in my father, and I just pray that he watches over me and watches over all of us,” he said.

Fighting tears, he signed off with his dad’s immortal words: “Feel the love of Christmas all year round.”