“When I turn 50,” she said, “I’m going to start doing what I want to do.”
So, in 1998, at the age of 50, Linda King left her accounting career. She retired from her job as controller for a plastics manufacturing plant in Georgia and followed her heart to Niceville, FL. Her wish was to leave the numbers behind and do something with her hands - to create. After experimenting with several different types of artistic pursuits, she discovered sculpting and knew she had found her calling. She taught herself the art and, in 2000, opened her own studio. She had no way of knowing at the time that by honoring her own heart she would ultimately honor many others, starting first with Taylor Reid Haugen.
Taylor Reid Haugen, known as ‘T’ by friends and family, was 15 years old when he passed away in August of 2008 from injuries he sustained during a home football game at Niceville High School. The community rallied for the Haugen Family and remembered a selfless young man with a positive attitude who was well respected by his peers, teachers, congregation, and family and spent much of his time helping others. Taylor was a natural leader among his friends and teammates, a gifted academic, and a mentor to the young. His two passions were Jesus and football and he dedicated his life to both. Taylor loved and played all sports but his favorite was football and he worked consistently to improve his skills in order to be the best he could be. This meant staying after practice and training on weekends with the quarterbacks. Taylor was also a member of the Leadership Council and Key Club at Niceville High School, was a PAL youth soccer referee, a member of the Na Gisa Dive Team, and made time to volunteer at church for youth retreats, events, and fundraisers. After his death, “a group of T’s friends wanted to start a scholarship fund,” explains Brian Haugen, Taylor’s father, “so they bought and sold t-shirts and made ribbons that raised the initial funds. When it became apparent that this scholarship fund was growing, my wife, Kathy, and I realized we could set up a community foundation in T’s name. This epiphany was one of the things that helped motivate us to start moving forward and to live up to T’s motto, ‘Don’t Quit. Never Give Up.’”
And that’s exactly what they did. The Haugens established the Taylor Haugen Foundation in September of 2008 and, in so doing, created an entity that honors Taylor by promoting everything that was important to him – faith, family, friends, academics, and sports. Today, the foundation consists of four areas of emphasis:
The Taylor Reid Haugen Scholarship Program - Offers two $1500 scholarships annually to well-rounded individuals who demonstrate the perseverance to improve themselves in all aspects of their life while enjoying God’s gifts to the fullest.
The Taylor Haugen Foundation Youth Corps - Developed out of Taylor’s friends’ desire to maintain Taylor’s community service focus.
The Taylor Haugen Foundation Youth Equipment for Sports Safety (YESS) Program - The Foundation’s biggest endeavor aimed at educating parents, coaches, and students about sports safety equipment available for our children but not widely known.
The Taylor Haugen Trophy - Developed from an idea introduced by the All Sports Association to have a trophy much like the Danny Wuerffel Trophy but for local high school athletes. This trophy is awarded each year to a local high school senior who exemplifies Taylor’s positive selfless attitude and his extraordinary faith and character.
It was during the Haugen’s search for a sculptor for the Taylor Haugen Trophy that they found Linda King.
“We scoured the area for a sculptor but to no avail,” said Haugen. “We searched the internet for an already-established trophy that would represent our vision but nothing seemed right. When we looked for a sculptor on a national level, logistics and distance made communication difficult. Finally, I reached out to Marcia Hull at the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation and, to our surprise, she said she knew of an excellent sculptor who lived right by us,” explained Haugen, ”and, well, the rest is history.”
During the Haugen’s first meeting with King in October of 2008, she asked if she could spend some time alone in Taylor’s room. “She said she needed to ‘feel’ him,” said Kathy, Taylor’s mother. When King came out of Taylor’s room, she started describing her vision for the trophy: an eagle poised as if ready to take flight, perched on an upward spiral, representing Taylor’s life and ascendance.
At that moment, the Taylor Haugen Trophy was born and during the next four months, King, with the expertise of a true craftsman, brought her vision and part of Taylor’s legacy to form. She started with the armature, the wire framework that acts as the skeleton of the sculpture. To the armature, King added clay to flesh out the figure. With the clay piece complete, King started making multiple molds. This process included many steps and involved wax, plaster, and rubber, each substance coated on and inside each other. Once the molds were finished, King packaged them carefully and shipped them to Rocky Mountain Bronze in Loveland, CO where the bronze was poured. When the molten bronze was cooled, the individual bronze pieces were removed from the molds and assembled. After the sculpture was assembled, it went to patina (which can be compared to glazing pottery). The patina process took about a week and during this time the sculpture base was cut, polished, stacked, and engraved. Finally, Rocky Mountain Bronze mounted the sculpture to the base and shipped the finished bronze trophy back to King. The finished piece measured 26 inches in height and weighed 35 pounds. As King and the Haugens held the finished sculpture, it was clear that it was more than just a trophy. This masterpiece represented not only practical significance but also, more importantly, a spiritual significance - something Taylor would be proud of.
Even before that first trophy was complete, the Taylor Haugen Foundation, in conjunction with the All Sports Association, had chosen its first recipient. In February of 2009, just days after the trophy was finished, Fort Walton Beach High School student Caisson (Caise) Moates Vickery, Jr. became the first senior to earn the Taylor Haugen Trophy.
Over the next four years, King created five more beautiful trophies, each one as unique and exceptional as the individuals who received them. In 2010, the Taylor Haugen Trophy was awarded to Rocky Bayou Christian School’s Shannon Donahue, in 2011 to Crestview High School’s Garrett Teal, in 2012 to Collin Myrick from Freeport High School, and in 2013 to Baker High School’s Haley Wagner. In January of this year, Charlie Shackelford learned that he had become the sixth recipient of the prestigious Taylor Haugen Trophy.
Shackelford, like his fellow trophy recipients, is doing remarkable things with his life. He is focused on serving others and mentors youth at the Boys & Girls Club, is one of the best long-distance runners in the Panhandle, has an impressive 4.6025 weighted GPA, and is deeply committed to his faith. “Charlie is a wonderful addition to the Trophy family,” said Kathy. “Every recipient has a little bit of Taylor in them, yet all are different. It’s a beautiful mix and we are truly blessed to have them in our lives.”
Shackelford received his trophy at the All Sports Association Breakfast on February 7, 2014.
“Being the winner of this award holds me to a higher standard to continually show that I am about what this trophy stands for,” says Shackelford. “This honor is such motivation to live my life in the same ‘Don’t Quit. Never Give Up!’ spirit Taylor did. It also means a second family in the Haugens and I know Christ is uniting all of us. And that,” Shackelford adds, “is something no other award that I know of gives you.”
In 2013, as King worked on the sixth Taylor Haugen Trophy that would become Shackelford’s, she lost her three-year battle with cancer and passed away in October. By following her dream, which led her to help shape Taylor’s legacy, she has left quite a legacy of her own. It is in each unique masterpiece she has meticulously formed. It is also in each of the individuals who have been, and will be, honored with not only a beautiful work of art, but also a powerful reminder of what strong faith, character, and determination can do in this world.
King’s daughter, Angela Murphy, who will carry on her mother’s art and oversee the creation of future trophies, says with pride, “Mom figured things out and did things that most people would think couldn’t be done. She was a person whom people gravitated to and I don’t think she had any idea the impact she had on people.”Finally, she adds, “That sure sounds a lot like Taylor and the trophy recipients, doesn’t it?”
Shackelford’s trophy will be on display at the Emerald Coast Convention Center until February 2015.
About the Author:
Christy Gibson has called Santa Rosa Beach home for 30 years. She lives with her husband Gary, and their two daughters, Emma and Lily. She is a stay-at-home mom, a freelance writer, and a witness to the power of love and prayer.