Loretta DeFazio Taylor did not graduate from college until the year she turned 50, after helping to raise her five children.
"She loved going back" to school, said a longtime friend, Joan McKeon.
"She loved being educated," McKeon said. "She had not had enough."
The education had its rewards.
In the same year in which she graduated, Mrs. Taylor began a career that included working as an aide to the late U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D., N.J.).
On Tuesday, Aug. 23, Mrs. Taylor, 87, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease at the retirement community Medford Leas.
Born in Philadelphia, Mrs. Taylor graduated from Merchantville High School in 1945, then attended Goucher College. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science at Rutgers-Camden in 1978.
Mrs. Taylor worked as an aide from 1978 to 1982 for Democrat Herman T. Costello, who was a New Jersey assemblyman from 1976 to 1981 and a state senator in 1982-83, both in the Seventh Legislative District, her daughter, Leslie, said.
Mrs. Taylor was then an aide from 1982 to 1992 for Lautenberg, who was in office from December 1982 to January 2001 and from January 2003 to June 2013.
For Costello and for Lautenberg, her daughter said, Mrs. Taylor "was a liaison to constituents." For Costello, "she also helped him write legislation," she said.
The attraction of government work, her daughter said, was that both of Mrs. Taylor's parents were "very active in left-wing politics" in the 1920s, when she was born.
Her father, John, had arrived in the States from Calabria, Italy, when he was 12. Her mother, the former Serena Blois, had grown up on an Oklahoma farm and moved to Philadelphia as a teenager.
"They had a strong concern for social justice," Leslie Taylor said of Mrs. Taylor's parents, "and that's what motivated her to participate in politics."
Joan McKeon got to know Mrs. Taylor as their children were growing up in Moorestown.
"She was very proud of her Italian ancestry," McKeon said, so much so that she did not watch the TV series The Sopranos because "she didn't want any stereotypes" in her home.
Besides her daughter, Mrs. Taylor is survived by her husband of 68 years, David; sons Steven and Paul; daughter Victoria Robertson; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A life celebration was set for 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, in the Holly Room at Medford Leas, off Route 70 in Medford.