Cover photo for William "Bill" Wilson Taft's Obituary
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William "Bill" Wilson Taft

September 15, 1932 — May 31, 2024

Chagrin Falls

William "Bill" Wilson Taft

William (“Bill”) Wilson Taft, a gentleman and a scholar in every sense of the term, left this world with a peaceful dignity on May 31st, 2024.  He was 91 years old.  Bill Taft, married to Edith Taft for 65 years until her passing in January of this year, was the father of three children, grandfather of eight, and great grandfather to four. 

Throughout his life, Bill was known for his warmth, his cunning sense of humor, and his commitment to learning, discovery, and to the service of others.  These qualities made him an active, valued and cherished member of many communities, both personal and professional. 

He was born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio the first-born child of Charles and Ruth Taft.  He was a graduate of University School, Amherst College and Harvard Law School.  

Between college and law school, he served his country in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Germany. One seismic life shift occurred when he met the life force of our mother Edith Gress in Germany in 1956.  Upon their first encounter, he thought "Oh no, I am in trouble." Indeed he was. Their love story resulted in Edith joining Bill in the United States at the age of 22. They were married on August 20, 1958 at Christ Episcopal Church.  As a couple, they complemented each other perfectly and brought out the best in each other and in others.

Bill went on to serve in both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate for much of the 1960s through the early 70s.  He was a strong advocate for improving education in the state of Ohio and expanding access to education for all.  As a State Senator, he was instrumental in passing a bi-partisan bill that was hailed at the time as the “greatest education bill in Ohio history”.

As an accomplished attorney, he concentrated on corporate law and ably served his clients as a partner at Arter and Haden, where he practiced law for almost 40 years until his retirement. 

Active in the community, he served on the boards of various local organizations including as a longtime Trustee of Hathaway Brown School and one of the Founding Trustees of Cleveland State University. 

A lifelong athlete, Bill was a member of the Cleveland Racquet Club where he was an active tennis player for many years and the Kirtland Country Club where he took up golf in his late 40s, a passion he pursued with vigor into his 80s. At the Kirtland Country Club he served a term as President and as a member of the Board of Directors.  

Bill’s last great act of service was caring for our mother after she suffered a debilitating stroke in 2012.   Together they committed to the goal of helping her regain her mobility and get back to her “old life” as they called it.  Bill served as physical therapist and care coordinator, while mobilizing a host of resources and learning everything about various emerging treatments and therapies. 

Throughout his life, Bill epitomized love of family. His rock-steady reliability meant he was always there for his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  He was unceasingly ready to guide, encourage, and teach us about life while skiing, golfing, traveling, working in the basement workshop or attending a play or opera.  He taught us his most important lessons on the water. Bill was an avid sailor.   His childhood nickname, Skipper, came from his love of sailing on Lake Erie.   As a father, he took us on many family sailing trips.  He was the captain, and we were the crew.   He was always calm at the helm of the sailboat.  The wind might blow his hat into the water or rip a chart from his hands, but he was ready to sail on and get us all back safely to port. All of us—his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren--will carry on the lessons we learned from Bill “Skipper” Taft:   To see life as an adventure and to always, always be prepared to stay the course, no matter which way the wind may blow.

Bill is survived by his loving children Peter Taft (Julie), William Taft (Lisa), and Linda MacKinnon (Don); grandchildren Lea Taft Morris (Leland), Abigail Taft Stoller (Jake), Lucy Taft Hoge (Preston), Isabelle and Will Taft, Margaux and Colin MacKinnon; four great grandchildren; and his brother Robert Taft and his sister-in-law Heidrun Thornton.

We will be celebrating the well-lived lives of Edith and Bill Taft together with family and friends at Kirtland Country Club on June 14th at 5pm. All who loved and appreciated Bill and Edith are welcome and warmly encouraged to attend. 

In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations in his honor at either of the following organizations: Alzheimer's Association Cleveland Area Chapter using this website: https://www.alz.org/cleveland?form=FUNSETYDEFK or to University School.

 

 

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