Taylor Gallant was known by his teachers as a highly intelligent, driven student who knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life a lot earlier than many of his peers — serve in the Navy.
Petty Officer Second Class Gallant, 22, a 2008 George Rogers Clark High School graduate, died Jan. 26 during a training exercise with the Navy off the coast of North Carolina. His death is under investigation.
He was assigned to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 12, a force with the only capability of its kind within the Department of Defense, according to the Navy.
John Gay, public affairs officer for the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, said Gallant “was among an elite group of men and women.”
While a student at GRC, Gallant was a member of the marching band’s drum line. While he was a talented musician, it was Gallant’s intellect many of his teachers remember.
Math teacher Steven Parks taught Gallant’s advanced placement calculus class his senior year. He said Gallant could learn in five minutes what it took other people an entire class period to figure out.
Because he already knew he was going into the Navy after graduating high school, “AP calculus was not something he needed,” Parks said, and he recalled Gallant paying attention for five minutes and then sleeping the rest of class.
"But at the end of the year, there's a national AP exam,” Parks said. “It’s super difficult, and very few kids pass it. He passed the national exam that year, and he was awake for maybe 10 percent of the entire year. My God, was he bright."
About a year after graduating from GRC, Gallant went back and visited Parks in his classroom. Parks said it was obvious to him how proud Gallant was to be serving in the Navy, and “you could tell he really took pride in being a part of the military and looked forward to that as a career.”
"And it was comforting to me to see someone so intelligent who had found what they wanted to do in life and were succeeding and doing so well and enjoying it,” Parks said. "My guess would be that he died doing something that he really loved."
Debbie Sharp, a math teacher at GRC whose son was in the band with Gallant, taught him as a freshman. She said he was "highly intelligent" and motivated, with strong character.
Sharp remembered playing him in Rook tournaments at school.
"He would come down and play during lunch. He was very competitive and he would always try to beat me all the time," she said, laughing.
Patricia Fraley, a GRC math teacher who taught Gallant pre-calculus, described him as witty and a strong student.
"He could think outside of the box really well. He wasn't one that liked to just sit and do problems. He wanted to do problems that were thought-provoking types of problems," Fraley said. "He was a deep thinker. He was a good student. He was very enjoyable to have in class. The kids liked him. He had a good personality."
Fraley said she was not surprised that he went into the Navy.
"That's what he always wanted to do. That was his dream," Fraley said.
"It was really neat because it's rare that you meet a senior in high school who's that certain of what he or she wants to become," Parks said.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete with Rolan G. Taylor Funeral Home, 289 S. Main St.
Contact Katie Perkowski at email@example.com.