A Lasting Legacy

January 31, 2008
Section: Daily Break, page IE7
© 2008- Landmark Communications Inc.

When Deshannon Artemis Taylor died 13 years ago, his classmates promised they'd do something to memorialize their friend. But they were teens then, unsure of how to proceed. They're men now, and in 2007 they did as they had promised. They awarded the first D.A. Taylor Memorial Scholarship to a student from Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake. D.A. Taylor played football and lacrosse for Norfolk Academy.

"He was a quiet fierce competitor and at the same time had a soft smiling side," said Drew McKnight, a friend and teammate.

Taylor contracted meningococcal meningitis at a track meet when he was a junior. The talented athlete was in a coma for a month at The Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk.

"It was a constant vigil," said McKnight, co-chair of the D.A. Taylor Foundation.

Taylor died in March 1995. His friends wanted to do something in his honor, said McKnight, but at the time they didn't have the ability. As they grew older, graduated from college and became professionals, ideas emerged to honor the high school buddy they would never forget.

It took a call from Taylor's mom, Gale Taylor, to kick things off in 2004. She agreed to meet with her son's friends to talk about opportunities to memorialize Taylor.

"They were a special group of kids," Gale Taylor said. "They were particularly close. Even though time had passed, the feelings were still there."

The friends began to host fundraising cookouts and other events in the cities where they lived in 2005.

They used the money they had raised to establish the D.A. Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund with the Norfolk Foundation in 2006.

Ricardo Boulware, now a freshman at Virginia Tech, was awarded the inaugural D.A. Taylor Memorial Scholarship.

The D.A. Taylor Memorial Scholarship is administered and managed by the Norfolk Foundation and follows guidelines developed by the board of the D.A. Taylor Foundation.

The fund is for a student in need of financial aid.

Applicants should display the qualities exhibited by Taylor, such as "strong leadership and academic abilities, involvement in extra curricular activities, a commitment to helping others, and overall excellence inside and outside of the classroom."

Boulware fit the bill.

He was senior class president at Great Bridge High, Youth Advisory Board member and a leader in the Key Club. He also was a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society, and he participated on the varsitycross country and tennis teams.

Boulware attended a scholarship dinner in Virginia Beach on his birthday, Aug. 2. D.A.'s friends and family attended.

"They seem very dedicated to honor their friend," said Boulware, who received $1,100 for his first year at Virginia Tech. "It'svery beneficial for students like me.

"For it to be in honor of D.A. is the icing on thecake."