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Richton Park author, 87, is after laughter

ThelmShirley Taylor RichtPark talks about her new book 'Laugh Again! The 'Ha' thHeals.' | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

Thelma Shirley Taylor, of Richton Park, talks about her new book "Laugh Again! The 'Ha' that Heals." | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 23, 2012 6:01AM



Thelma Shirley-Taylor wants to help people laugh their way to better health.

The Richton Park woman, 87, has written a book called “Laugh Again! The ‘Ha’ That Heals,” about humor and its healing properties.

When she got the idea for her book, it was not to be ignored. The self-described spiritual woman said the idea — and eventually the title — came from God.

“I was just bored one morning ... and I said, ‘Oh, God, I want something to do that will help people ... just something that will lift their spirits,’ ” Taylor said.

“I knew it was God-given,” she said, “because I didn’t know anything about humor except to laugh when somebody tells a good joke.”

She said she worked at her computer “night and day for 20 months,” not only to find jokes and anecdotes for her book, but to research the science behind the healing power of humor.

“These hands are swollen as a result,” Taylor said of her typing. “I was obsessed, to be very honest.”

Her husband, Fred, took on all the household chores, often having to “drag (her) away from the computer” so Taylor would get some sleep.

But Fred, 74, has no complaints. He said he was happy to help his fairly new bride.

The Taylors were married in 2005. They had met a couple of years earlier, when Fred was working for an adult day care facility and was driving Thelma’s mother to her daughter’s home in Homewood.

“(Thelma) was playing a lot of tennis then,” Fred said. “That’s when she caught my eye, when I saw her in her tennis outfit.”

Fred has been trying to keep up with his active wife ever since.

“She thinks in terms of productions all the time,” Fred Taylor said with a chuckle.

Thelma Taylor has been thinking big for most of her life. During World War II, she traveled from her home in New York to Chicago as an employee of the U.S. Treasury Department. After the war, she and a friend, Arlene Pierce, of Chicago, organized fashion show fundraisers for communities and churches.

By 1970, Taylor had taken a job working for Mayor Richard J. Daley’s economic development commission, eventually creating “The Chicago Look” and producing “The Chicago Look Fashion Shows” until 1977.

In retirement, Taylor didn’t plan to start a new career. But once the idea for her book came to her, she was determined to get it published.

Taylor attended a suburban chapter of the Speakers Publishers and Authors Association, a nonprofit founded by Dr. Michael Wilkins, whom she calls her “mentor.”

Wilkins said he knew that laughter had healing powers, so he saw real potential in Taylor’s book. He told her there was no question he would help her get it ready for publication.

“The thing that impressed me most about her was the fact that she was 87 years old and she could have been sitting around complaining or fishing,” Wilkins said. “She could have been doing anything else. She sincerely wanted to help someone else, and that made it good enough for me.”

Taylor said her sole purpose in writing the book was to help others. She is especially concerned about getting her book in the hands of senior citizens.

“Seniors need to laugh and love to laugh,” Taylor said. “This is a drug-less prescription.”

To buy “Laugh Again! The ‘Ha’ That Heals,” call (708) 357-7141 or visit www.thehathatheals.com.



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