Non-profit advocate, executive director of Newton County Community Partnership and former Rotary Club president Stuart Taber died Saturday in his home after a two-and-a-half year battle with cancer.
Taber, a graduate of Florida State University, where he played football, and a retired Red Cross executive, moved to Newton County 10 years ago but managed to make a tremendous impact and touched many lives in his short time here.
Friends and community leaders described Taber as a charming man and captivating speaker with high standards and a passion for helping non-profit organizations.
"What Stu specialized in was in putting people and resources together at the right time to make a big difference," said Laura Bertram, program director for NCCP and a friend of Taber.
She remembers first meeting him in her role as director of the local Red Cross chapter.
"I could sense right off the bat this was a man who knew how to make things happen," she said. Within 15 minutes of their conversation, she offered to give him a good recommendation for a job with a local non-profit if he would chair the board of the Red Cross chapter. And he accepted.
Bee Jackson, director of the Washington Street Community Center, described Taber as a man of action. "He had a real compassion for the community here at large. He was concerned about being able to move and be progressive and giving us all the support we could need. He loved children," she said. "He will be sorely missed in our community."
Taber either headed or served on the board of countless local civic and non-profit groups, including the Newton County United Way board, the Newton County Chamber of Commerce governmental affairs committee, the Newton County Mental Health Association. He was central to starting the volunteer group "Hands On Newton," facilitated Kids Net and Prevent Child Abuse Newton and affected at least 19 local groups through his many roles.
His goal was to see every child in Newton County graduate high school on time with the skills needed to succeed in life, said Bertram. "That pretty much means he will work with anyone who wants to help children in Newton County," she said.
Current Rotary Club president and friend Doug Bolton, also director of Hands On Newton, started by working on a fold-out table in Taber's office and learned the ropes of how to lead a non-profit from him.
"I used to say, I had a $50 printer and a $50 desk, but working with Stu and Laura was priceless," said Bolton.
He described Taber as an ethical person with high standards who did things because it was the right thing to do. "He expected everyone to meet those standards. And you did. You rose to the standards he set," said Bolton.
Taber also didn't dwell in self-pity, even when he was diagnosed again with cancer after a year in remission.
"Whenever someone would start getting down about his situation and getting emotional, he would come out and say 'There's no crying in baseball,'" said Bolton, with a pause, swallowing hard. "Sometimes easier said than done."
"Stu never stopped having a sense of fun and accomplishment and pride in what was accomplished in Newton County. And gratitude. He was exceedingly grateful to be a part of the changes that have happened," Bertram said. "He loved Newton County. And he loved all the people here."
Taber is survived by three daughters, two granddaughters, a sister and companion Jane Atkinson, who managed his care in the last months of his life, according to Bertram.
A memorial service will be held today at 4 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Covington. Contributions can be given in lieu of flowers to the Stu Taber Memorial Scholarship fund to support Camp Sunshine, a camp for kids with cancer, care of the Covington Rotary Club, or to "Hands on Newton," care of the Newton County Community Partnership. Contributions can be sent to Doug Bolton at 8134 Geiger Street, Suite 1, Covington, Ga. 30014.