Last year, while reminiscing about her idyllic childhood in Mexico, Mary Taylor Newcomb Dolge made it clear that although she left Chamal at 17, her heart stayed behind.
“It’s my home to this day. It’s always been my home,” she said of the American agricultural colony founded in 1902 south of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.
For a decade, the settlement grew and prospered. But beginning in 1913, the Mexican Revolution forced most of the Americans to flee and cost several their lives.
When the upheaval ended, Taylor’s family returned, and she was born there in 1924. But Chamal never really recovered. Fewer than a half-dozen elderly Americans remain there today.
Taylor, 94, who lived most of her life in San Antonio, died April 8 of congestive heart failure.
Known to many as Aunt Mary, she was the center of attention at the annual reunions of Chamal descendants, usually held in San Antonio.
One of 10 children, she was born in a barn made of palm logs. And nine decades later, her face still glowed as she recounted childhood memories of tropical birds and flowers, her horse Swanee and mule trips into the mountains with her older brothers.
At her death, she was believed to be the second oldest Chamaleño.
“She was the matriarch. She represented the history of the descendants of the colonists that we could relate to,” said Bill Ward, 81, whose grandfather was an early settler. “She retained her love for Chamal and had the personality to really spark it as well.”
In 1941, Taylor left Mexico and came to Natalia with an older sister, two brothers and three younger children to attend public school. Among them was nephew Melford Turner, 87, whom she helped care for in the “little bitty house” they all lived in.
“Aunt Mary was like a sister to us. She was a beautiful person. But the danged guys was always coming around, and we didn’t like her having dates,” Turner recalled.
While working during World War II at the post exchange at the future Lackland AFB, she met Gerald Richard Newcomb. They were married for 36 years until he died in 1983. In 1987, Taylor married Wayne Dolge. Their 30-year union ended with his death in 2017.
For decades, Taylor made regular visits back to Mexico, often with son Rick Newcomb.
“The most pleasant memories of my childhood are set in Chamal,” of summer days with ranch hands on horseback or riding a tractor, he said.
“The family was very close-knit and dirt-poor,” Newcomb said of his mother’s upbringing. “They were something of a minority in Chamal, and they stuck together. Mother was very close to every one of her brothers.”
Taylor’s younger brother Lindy and his wife, Lillian, are the only Taylors who remain in Chamal. Tamaulipas is considered unsafe, and although Mary Taylor still owned a small house there, she hadn’t visited in about 15 years.
“For my mother, it was too dangerous, and then she was too old. It was a sore spot for her,” Newcomb said.
To Lillian Taylor, 85, Mary Taylor was “like a sister.”
“I loved her very much. She’s been a wonderful person all my life, helping everyone,” Lillian Taylor said. “My daughter Virginia went to the U.S. to live with Mary when she was 10 years old. Mary took care of her until she finished high school.”
Virginia Taylor Jobi, now 65, still recalls coming to Texas as “just a kid, so little, and I had never left home before.”
“She was just like my second mother. Very patient and kind-hearted,” said Taylor Jobi, who graduated with Rick Newcomb from Lee High School. “If you were to see her, you’d fall in love with her because you felt so fine.”
For her son, Taylor’s abiding quality was her devotion to those close to her.
“She loved people. She loved her family more than anything. And she was willing to spend her time, whatever it took, to make sure everyone was doing well,” he said.
Mary Taylor Newcomb Dolge
Born: May 30, 1924, Chamal, Mexico
Died: April 8, 2019, San Antonio
Survived by: Son Rick Newcomb and daughter-in-law Liz; brother Lindy Taylor and sister-in-law Lillian; sister-in-law Maggie Taylor; grandchildren Beth, Augie, Meghan, Josh and Ashlee; and five great-grandchildren.
Services: Services were held Thursday. Burial is set for 1:30 p.m. Monday at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Pavilion 3.
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