H. Vaden
H. Vaden

Obituary of H. Taylor Vaden

H. Taylor (“Call me Bud”) Vaden, a beloved family patriarch, Philadelphia communications executive, and enthusiastic traveler, died Monday, March 18, in Audubon. He was 90.

As a young man Vaden began what would become a decades-long career – and lifelong passion – in media and communications at WPTF in Raleigh, N.C., where he worked in the publicity department. Four years later he was appointed director of television promotions at WCAU in Philadelphia, a CBS affiliate at the time; he subsequently worked at WJZ-TV in Baltimore and then returned to Philadelphia at WFIL-TV (now WPVI). From there, he rose to positions as a promotions director and executive at the now-defunct Triangle Publications, which, along with the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, owned and operated various radio and television stations around the country. He served one term as president of the national Broadcast Promotion Association.

Later, he directed marketing and communications nationwide for American Medicorp, Inc., a hospital management company headquartered in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. and Dallas, Texas. He subsequently served as public relations director at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Beginning in 1983 he founded and ran his own firm, Vaden Communications & Marketing, and emerged as a nationally recognized expert and speaker on healthcare marketing.

Vaden was born January 13, 1929 in Washington, D.C., to Henry Covington and Emma Taylor Vaden, the third of the couple’s five children. The family had limited means, prompting an industrious young Vaden to work various jobs, including as a soda fountain dishwasher, Washington Redskins sideline spotter and stadium messenger, and door-to-door magazine salesman, to earn income that would help him become the first in his family to attend college. His Depression-era childhood was also marked by two serious injuries: At the age of 11 he was blinded in his left eye while attempting to cut thick twine; at 16 he was nearly killed after being shot, at close range, in the cheek by a friend. The incident earned a front page story in the Washington Daily News, with the headline: “Boy Shot With Gun, Wants Bullet as Souvenir.”

After a stellar career at Western High School, where he was voted “Most Likely To Succeed” and served as an officer in the Cadet Corps, vice president of student council and editor of the Western Breeze, Vaden attended the University of North Carolina, where he was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece, UNC’s oldest and highest honorary society. In Chapel Hill he was a proud member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, sports editor of the Daily Tar Heel, and assistant in the University’s sports information office. North Carolina football legend Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice once fondly recalled Vaden’s sports publicity work by noting, “He helped make me an All-American.”

Known for his lightheartedness and often zany sense of humor, Vaden was also a devoted Tar Heels basketball fan, avid gardener, aviation enthusiast, and politics and history buff. He visited all 50 states and dozens of countries; in 1955, while living in Raleigh, North Carolina, he was appointed that city’s community ambassador to Denmark. Vaden and his family also hosted numerous international visitors through various exchange programs, including the family of Japan’s eventual Princess Kiko. One of the highlights of Vaden’s world travels was the opportunity to receive a personal tour of the Tokyo Imperial Palace while reuniting with his dear old friend, the princess’ father.

Fondly known as “Uncle Bud” or “Budzo” to many of his children’s friends, Vaden was especially honored and delighted to deliver the commencement address at his youngest son’s high school graduation from Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, Pa. While recuperating at Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Hospital in 1984 from the first of two open-heart surgeries, he was tickled that his son’s friends snuck in a cake with a file baked into it to “bust him out,” and talked about it for years afterward.

He married Judith Sanford in 1952, with whom he raised four children: Janice (Carl Bach), of Chelsea, Michigan; Christopher (Elizabeth Vaden), of Washington, D.C.; Andrew (Betsy Vaden), of Corona del Mar, California; and Jonathan (Michelle Williams), of Santa Cruz, California. The couple divorced in 1975. Later marriages to Christel Laurie and Barrie Cassileth also ended in divorce. He is survived by his children, along with nine grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his four siblings: Jean, Betty Lou, Emma and Tom.

The family especially wishes to acknowledge and thank the many staff members and caregivers from the Shannondell at Valley Forge retirement community who assisted Bud over the past 10 years. A celebration of his life will be scheduled at a later date.

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