MONMOUTH -- Those who knew Robert Taylor describe him as a practical joker who loved to get a reaction out of people. Bob Carney, a Monmouth resident and a friend of Robert's, remembers an instance where Robert placed a "for sale" sign on a friend's vehicle, along with a dirt-cheap asking price.
The victim's "phone didn't stop ringing for days," Carney said, chuckling.
Linda Taylor, Robert's wife, used to job share with her sister-in-law, Lisa Coffman, at Master Appliance Service -- the business they and their husbands have owned for nearly 20 years. The two women used to rotate shifts. "It gave us time to be with our kids," Coffman said.
"After a while, people would start to get us confused," she added.
Robert and Linda Taylor, 53 and 49, respectively, were best friends who shared a passion for classic cars, blackjack and their children.
"They were so bonded as a couple," Lisa Coffman said. "And so family oriented."
Community members are still mourning the loss of the Taylors, who died in a multicar accident on Interstate 5 in Woodland, Calif., north of Sacramento, on Aug. 8.
The incident occurred after a Mitsubishi box truck entered a construction zone at an unsafe speed, switched lanes to avoid traffic, and careened into several stopped or slowed cars.
Five vehicles, including the Taylors' Chevy Tahoe, caught fire and were engulfed in flames. The Taylors and La-nessa Leann DiMillo, a 2-year-old girl from Tacoma, Wash., in a separate car, were killed. Seven others were injured.
There have been no charges filed against the driver of the box truck, Carlos Hernandez of Elk Grove, Calif.
Whether or not that happens depends on the outcome of an investigation into the incident, according to a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman.
Coffman said the Taylors had taken the week off to visit Robert's family in Modesto and were then bound for a cruise-in in Reno, Nev. The Taylors' son, Don Taylor, informed them of the tragedy the evening of Aug. 8, Coffman said.
Their store on Knox Street has seen a steady stream of visitors and acquaintances who've come in to offer cards and hugs.
"It's been tough in here," Coffman said. "But being open has given people a chance to come in and express their condolences."
The Taylors had two children, Don Taylor and Danell Siville, and four grandchildren.
"They're very emotional; they just lost two wonderful people," said Langdon Smith, an attorney speaking on behalf of the family.
The appliance store was a natural venture for Linda Taylor and her brother, Ken Coffman, Lisa's husband. Ken and Linda's father, Lloyd Coffman, had run Independence Appliance for more than 30 years.
"They grew up in the store," Lisa Coffman said.
Carney became friends with the Taylors when Carney still owned Monmouth Hardware less than a block away.
Robert Taylor was obsessed with classic cars and had restored a small stable of Chevy muscle cars, Carney said. He and Robert organized a cruise-in in front of the appliance shop during July 4 celebrations.
The Taylors could fix "just about anything" and were quick to help those in need, Carney said. Robert Taylor once overheard a customer in Carney's hardware store discussing money troubles, he said.
"And Robert donated a dryer to him," he said. "He brought it over to their house on Christmas Eve."
Ironically, Carney had planned to fly out to Reno on Aug. 12 to meet with the Taylors for the Hot August Nights car show. The couple was going to pick him up at the airport. Carney said Robert had actually called him on that fateful day, not long before the accident.
"He told me to call him an hour before they came to pick us up," Carney said. "I'm still taken aback by it."
Community members are welcome to attend a celebration of life for Robert and Linda Taylor on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at 4 p.m. at Green Villa Barn on Highway 51 north of Independence.