Leslie truly thrived in the ministry environment. In addition
to providing full-time care for her growing family (sons Stephen,
John, Tim, and Marc and daughters Bethany and Aleya), she served as a counselor
for young women at
the college. She was known for her warmth, enthusiastic laughter, and generous hospitality. She never stopped reaching out to others and opening up her home to make them feel welcome. As a mother, she was loving, sacrificial, and fiercely dedicated, but always sharing a sense of fun with her children. Although she admitted to “shyer” days in her youth, with experience came an increasing confidence, and Leslie displayed a unique blend of spirited charm. She was not afraid to speak her mind, but she usually did so with her trademark sense of humor, a quality that made her popular not only as a friend, but as an occasional public speaker at local church and ministry events. Despite admiration from her family and peers, Leslie was acutely aware of her own shortcomings, and she never hesitated to give way to a spell of self-deprecating wit. She possessed a humble gratefulness for all God had done in her life.
One of Leslie’s most life-defining experiences was facing the news in 1978 that her second son John had leukemia (at the age of 5). For nearly two tiring years, she worked along with her husband and family to see John’s continuous treatment end with positive results. Nevertheless, John’s struggle finally ended in 1980. While Leslie counted those among her darkest days, she often shared in the months afterward how the circumstances were a mysterious blessing. She not only learned from John’s courage and faith, amazingly strong at such a young age, but was also encouraged by the overwhelming support of her Christian community throughout the entire ordeal. She and Ray regarded John as a gift from heaven, “on loan” to them for a few precious years.
Leslie was reunited with John in March of 1983, when she suddenly died as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was just thirty-six years old. Her passing came as a tremendous shock to her family and community, and adjusting to her absence was a difficult task. However, there was comfort knowing that Leslie had been at peace with her loved ones, and most of all, with her God. Her gracious presence is still sorely missed, but those who knew her rejoice that, as her epitaph reads, she is “absent from the body. . . present with the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 5:8)
At the time of her death, Leslie’s surviving children were still quite young (Stephen, 13, Tim, 9, Marc, 4, Bethany, 3, and Aleya, 2). In 1984, Ray Namie was married to Brenda Robinson, a widow with two children (Crystal, 7, and Paul, 4). Brenda loved Leslie’s children as if they were her very own, and she was, and continues to be, an incredible mother to her blended family.
Leslie’s children are now adults. Even though some of the younger ones do not have conscious recollections of Leslie, through the memories of family and friends, they have a strong sense of her vibrant spirit. She was truly a remarkable woman who will never be forgotten.
Leslie was one of those quiet, unobtrusive teammates who worked steadily and asked for little. I know of no one else whose smile was more radiant or easy to evoke, and when you saw it, you felt three sets less exhausted. I believe the fundamental goodness and compassion that blossomed so fully in her adult life showed in that smile. It was her instant reflex, unguarded and reaching out. She must have been a joy to her family.
The thing I remember best about her, though, is something remarkably silly. It is the way she breathed. Specifically, the way she breathed when she was out of breath. While the rest of us gasped like decked fish, or rolled in the gutters sputtering and moaning, Leslie just took a dainty full breath, her shoulders rising to show the need, her eyes downcast as if out of politeness. Only Alice Ceresko came close to that style. Like I said, a silly detail. But it has stuck with me, a kind of last footnote to a young girl who had a natural dignity and kept her laments to herself. Patton tested that in people; and Leslie Taliaferro posted high marks. -- Sully
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