Cajun and Chaos
Phyllis Talbot grew up in the tiny town of Chataignier, La., population around 383. She picked cotton before and after school, and later told her only child, Keith, that even if her family never had any money, they always had everything they needed. "From the time she was a little girl she dreamed of living in New York," Mr. Talbot said. "When she moved there it was one of her goals fulfilled." And she loved looking out the window of her office at the World Trade Center, where she was a vice president at Marsh USA, to see the Statue of Liberty.
Ms. Talbot, 53, enjoyed traveling and taking in shows and flea markets in Manhattan, where she lived. She spoke enough Cajun French to get around Paris, and she liked to be challenged, especially at work. "When all hell was breaking loose, that's when she was in her element," Mr. Talbot said. "That's when she did her best. She was definitely adept at putting out fires."
"She was tough. She was extremely tough, and I thank her every minute," he said of his mother, who raised him alone most of his life. That toughness, instilled in her son, has helped him since Sept. 11. "A lot of people I think have noticed how trying the events have been of the last three months, and how well I've handled it. I owe it all to her. I think my mother, and her whipping me into shape, helped a lot."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 16, 2001.