Brett Maxfield Taylor was born on March 20, 1929 in Mankato, Minnesota to Brett and Harriet (Nerbovig) Taylor. He was in the fourth of seven generations to be born and live in Mankato. His great-grandfather, George E. Brett, established the Empire Store in 1868 that evolved into Brett's Department Store. He graduated from Mankato High School in 1947 and Grinnell College in 1951 where he was a gifted runner on the track and cross-country teams.
He was married to Gretchen Pauline Porter in 1952. They raised three children: Scott, Mark, and Nancy.
Brett was the president of the family run business and worked alongside his father, uncles, sister, his son Scott, and his daughter Nancy. During his tenure as president, he oversaw the expansion from one store in Mankato to 19 stores throughout southern Minnesota.
He was one of the most civic-minded members of the Mankato area. In the 1960’s he was a leader of a community think tank known as Active Community Thought that focused on community improvement. The group identified the need for revitalization of the downtown area which led to enclosing a large portion of Front Street creating the Mankato Mall.
Brett was also a member of the board of directors of Mankato Citizens Telephone Company and First Federal Savings and Loan and was an active leader at the First Presbyterian Church. In 1972 he started the Mankato Chapter of Ducks Unlimited. While he was president, the Mankato chapter was second in the country in dollars raised to benefit waterfowl and their habitat. In addition, he was a member of the board of directors of Immanuel-St. Joseph's Hospital, serving as president. He was a member of Kiwanis for more than 50 years and was a Hixon Fellow. He and Gretchen chaired the Gustavus Adolphus College parents committee for over 10 years.
Retirement only increased opportunities for volunteerism for Brett. He led the campaign to raise funds to build the Ylvisaker Fine Arts Center on the campus of Bethany College. He was on the fundraising board of Central Freedom School, and the board of the Salvation Army where he increased the sales at the store twenty-fold. In 1988, Brett was the recipient of the Mankato Area Book of Golden Deeds award in recognition of his service to the community.
Throughout his life he was actively involved with the Boy Scouts of America. He was an Eagle Scout and was proud of his son and grandson who are also Eagle Scouts. He served on the Twin Valley Council board and oversaw the enhancement of Camp Norseland and Camp Cuyuna. He was Council president and received the Silver Beaver and lifetime achievement awards, the two highest recognitions in scouting.
Brett was well known for his passion for duck and pheasant hunting. His duck shack in North Dakota was his personal haven. That passion was only exceeded by his love for his family. He cherished family vacations and always wanted to be surrounded by as many generations as could join him. He was the entire family's role model for generosity, kindness, and philanthropy, along with his desire to "just go" and make things happen. Brett was always the first to extend his hand to welcome a stranger or greet a friend. His smile and love of life were contagious.
Brett was adored by all who survive him including his wife of over 71 years, Gretchen of Mankato, their three children: Scott (Anne Hunter) Taylor of Nellysford, Virginia, Mark (Rhonda) Taylor of Mankato, Nancy (Mark) Zallek of St. Peter; eight grandchildren: Elizabeth (Clay) Richards, Brent (Leah) Grover, Ryan (Lindsay) Taylor, Gretchen (David) Hagemeister, Evan (Katie) Taylor, Taylor, (Annika) Zallek, Bailey (Nick) DeVetter, and Brett (Hannah) Zallek. He cherished his 10 great-grandchildren; brother-in-law; PJ (Audrey) Porter; and two nephews: Clark (Sharon) Porter and Brett (Cindy Thompson) Bender.
Brett was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Jean T. Bender, and an infant sister.
Although he will be missed dearly, it was his time to "just go."
Brett died on Saturday, October 7, 2023 at Oak Terrace. His memorial service will be 4 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Mankato on Saturday, November 25, 2023, followed by a celebration of life in the lower level of First Presbyterian Church. Memorials are preferred to First Presbyterian Church of Mankato, Minnesota.