© Courtesy of the Elliott family Tara Elliott
Scores of customers and colleagues knew Tara Elliott as a successful business owner in Gadsden, but to many other people, she was so much more.
Austin Elliott said since his mother’s death Sept. 7, he’s heard from friends he hasn’t spoken with in years, and from those who worked at Tara’s, telling him his mother was like a second mother to them.
Elliott touched many lives through her business and her life, he said. “She made women of all ages and sizes feel loved and beautiful,” Austin said.
Tara and her husband, Alex Elliott, and Tara’s mother, Lynn Taylor, were in Las Vegas on business, at a market event. when Tara and Alex contracted COVID-19.
Alex recovered while Tara remained in a hospital.
“But she had beaten COVID,” Austin said, when she suffered a massive stroke.
He said it is unclear whether the stroke was an aftereffect of COVID, but had that not happened, he believes she would have recovered. He said physicians in Las Vegas believe she contracted one of the newer, possibly vaccine-resistant strains of COVID, such as the mu variant.
The Las Vegas Review Journal reported Thursday that about 40 cases of the mu variant had been identified in five Nevada counties, including Clark County, where Las Vegas is located. However, the story reported no new cases had been reported in the last 30 days, concluding that it had not survived masks, vaccination and social distancing.
Austin doesn’t want his mother’s death to fuel the vaccination debate, however,. It ultimately was the stroke that caused her death, he said, and her family wants to focus on her life.
“There aren’t too many people that I would say made the world a better place,” Austin said, adding his doesn’t believe he’s one. “But my mother was. The world is a worse place without her.”
For Austin, 27, and his younger brother Tucker, 21, the loss still seems unreal.
“The last time we saw her was Aug. 6,” Austin said. After agonizing weeks of monitoring her condition from across the country, they had to turn to planning to bring her home to Gadsden, and considering what arrangements to make for her.
“I know so many people loved my mother,” Austin said, “but considering the pandemic and what happened to her, it feels disrespectful” to bring people together, even at this time.
“She wouldn’t want anyone to go through what Tucker and I are going through,” Austin said.
He said Tara was more than Mom — she was his best friend.
Austin said he was born with cancer, and by the time his mother was his age, he’d been through three or four spinal surgeries.
“It was rough on me as a baby. I can’t imagine what that was like as a parent,” Austin said. “She was always right there by my side.”
Her business began back then, he said, in the most modest of ways. “She started selling jewelry out of a tackle box,” Austin recalled, “to make money to pay my medical bills and still be able to spend time with me.”
She moved to jewelry parties in people’s homes, he said, where they’d invite friends, and the sales from the party would give the hosts credit to buy jewelry of their own.
“She worked for 10 years before she ever had a brick and mortar store,” Austin said. It was located at three locations, ending up in the 300 block of Bay Street.
“She had a design in her head, and it was captured,” he said, in the current store.
The business was her dream, Austin said, and he and others plan to work to keep that dream alive.
He and his fiancée have operated the online portion of Tara’s Inc. for some time. He’s now looking at handling other aspects of the business as well. “It’s difficult stepping into the shoes of someone as crazy-good as she was,” he said.
He’s not alone. A lot of people are helping.Tara’s best friend, Joy Tarrance, and her cousin, Shonda Willard, are working with him, along with his fiancée.
“I’ve told them between the four of us, maybe we can match one-half of what my mother did,” Austin said.
That’s just on the business side, where Tara’s carried on through the pandemic, promoting online sales via social media, as well as in-store sales. Austin said the store ships to customers all over the country, even to Canada.
He’s heard from many of them through social media — hundreds of messages from people touched by Tara’s life.
There’s one message that stuck in his mind: “From closet to closet, she’ll never be forgotten,” the post read.
“She was a literal light,” Austin said, and an angel on earth to him.
“I just want people to know who loved she was,” he said, “and how much she loved the world and gave to it.”
Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Tara Elliott remembered: Successful business woman, second mother to many