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Marian G. Toovey

Loving mother, lifelong learner, world traveler

Marian Beatrice Golden Toovey, an off-and-on resident of Claremont for over 50 years, died at home on October 29, 2013 after a three-month decline in health, ultimately due to lung cancer. She was 88.

Ms. Toovey, known as Bamby to many of her friends and family, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 7, 1925 to Frank Demmer and Gertrude “Trudy” MacCoy Golden. The nickname “Bamby” came from the local Italian green grocer, who said the Goldens’ daughter reminded him of his own little bambina.        

The Golden family moved to La Grange, Illinois, by then one family member larger with the arrival of her brother Tom, just before the Great Depression. They settled into one of the first Frank Lloyd Wright-designed single-family suburban homes built in the country. Ms. Toovey’s father, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, was a multi-talented entrepreneur who worked several jobs and managed to make ends meet through those difficult times.

After graduating from high school, Ms. Toovey was encouraged by her mother to sign up for college at the University of Chicago. She had been an avid reader from the time she was a little girl, so she enrolled as an English major. To defray the cost of school, she got a job working nights as a receptionist at the university hospital. During those years, under the University of Chicago’s Stagg football field was hidden one of the top-secret staging places for the “Manhattan Project,” the code name for the development of the atomic bomb.

One evening, while Ms. Toovey was on duty at the reception desk, a group of men in trench coats and military uniforms burst into the lobby, and huddled around a black-faced man. Suddenly, a flurry of doctors and hospital staff converged and, without a word, whisked the man with the black face to the emergency ward. One of the men in a trench coat stopped to tell Ms. Toovey that she was to forget everything she had just seen. She said that would be easy, for she really wasn’t sure she had seen anything. Years later, she found out that the classified patient was Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, one of the men referred to as “the father of the atomic bomb,” whose face had been blackened in a minor explosion in his lab.         

After college, Ms. Toovey was hired as a flight attendant for United Airlines. She made regular runs between Chicago and Denver aboard United’s state-of-the-art DC-3 passenger air ships. She was hopping a streetcar during a layover in Denver, on her way to dinner with fellow United employees, when she began to lose her balance. A young marine caught her by the arm and pulled her on board. He was, in her mind, a little brash but nevertheless a gentleman. He was Lieutenant Trace E. Toovey, a Navy/Marines combat pilot stationed in the Pacific during the war, now on leave and being reassigned as a reserve pilot to be based in Honolulu.

They were married soon after and lived on base in Honolulu until 1951, when they moved to Laguna Beach, California. In 1952, their first child Christopher was born. A year later, they moved to Redondo Beach. In 1954, their daughter Patricia was born and in 1955 a second son, Curtis, was born.     

In 1958, Mr. Toovey was working as an executive pilot for a large construction company. His plane was based in El Monte. He had begun to express his unhappiness with his daily drive home from the warm and sunny LA inland back to the cold and dank coastal “home of the gray cloud,” Redondo Beach.

So began the weekend expeditions inland, with Claremont being the final choice as the Toovey family’s new hometown. Claremont reminded Mr. Toovey so much of his boyhood hometown in New Jersey with all the trees, and Ms. Toovey had suggested they drive a little further east each time, having read about The Claremont Colleges and the graduate program. She was quietly entertaining the idea of going back to school.

Ms. Toovey returned to college and received her teaching credential soon after settling into Claremont. She taught second grade in the Pomona Unified School District for the next 12 years. The family moved three times while in Claremont, from Annapolis Drive to Green Street and finally to Syracuse Drive. Shortly after the last move, Ms. Toovey took time off from teaching and again her interests turned toward a graduate degree, this time a master’s degree in American history. Her master’s, which she obtained at the end of the 1960s, was the precursor to her pursuit of a greater interest in government and public policy.

In 1972, Mr. and Ms. Toovey divorced. Ms. Toovey kept the household together for the next few years until all of her children were ready to take off on their own. Then she sold the house and moved to Sacramento where, as she said, “I can get closer to the subject,” which of course was the seat of California’s government.

While at the State Capitol, she landed a job as a clerk in the state archives. She took art and architecture history classes and a course in ceramics. One of her favorite annual events in Sacramento was the Sacramento Music Festival, which included the Society for the Preservation of Dixieland Jazz and, much to her surprise, featured her old Claremont Green Street neighbor Chet Jaeger and the Night Blooming Jazzmen. The festival rekindled her passion for traditional jazz and made her a little homesick for Claremont. 

In 1978, Ms. Toovey read about a program in which women under retirement age were being trained as apprentice carpenters to help with the revamping of the State Capitol Building. To boot, it was a union job paying union scale, which was more than she was making at the state archives. She joined the program and worked as an apprentice finish carpenter for two years.

Toward the end of her stay in Sacramento, Ms. Toovey started to travel. She and a friend who was a recently retired lobbyist for the California Teachers Association had talked for some time about traveling abroad. Both women were hesitant about traveling alone and neither had the time to travel anyway. Now, the timing was right and they became traveling partners for the next 10 years. Their travels included many places of interest throughout the US like Savannah, Georgia, the home of musician Johnny Mercer, New Orleans, the home of Dixieland Jazz, and a trip to Washington, DC. Finally, Ms. Toovey took her first trip abroad, traveling to Ireland for a three-week tour.

In the mid-1980s, Ms. Toovey returned to Claremont. For a short time, she taught US history at Mt. San Antonio College. One semester, she had a group of firefighters taking her course as a prerequisite for their certification program. They were much more interested in the politics and policies behind the history. They asked in-depth questions that she often had difficulty providing simple, satisfying answers to. This was the experience that triggered her return to CGU and the beginning of her pursuit of a doctorate in government and public policy.

After her short stint at Mt. SAC, Ms. Toovey began looking for a job that would be more flexible and that worked around her studies. While volunteering at the Claremont Colleges’ International Festival, she learned there was a growing need for teachers in the local English as a Second Language program. Ms. Toovey applied to the ESL certification program, was accepted and soon certified and began her 10-year career teaching ESL. The program was a good fit with her studies. As an ESL teacher, she was immersed in culturally diverse groups of students, with firsthand accounts of life in other parts of the world where many of her students’ homelands were influenced on a daily basis by US foreign policy.

In the late ‘90s, Ms. Toovey began to experience problems retaining the information from the reading for school. It finally became enough of a problem that she backed out of the program at CGU and retired from teaching ESL. She stayed in contact with many of her ESL students, however, hosting tea at her apartment for several years with a group of Korean women who had been students of hers, to socialize and practice English conversation.

Though her academic pursuits were finished, Ms. Toovey stayed very active and involved. She joined Elder Hostel and traveled with that organization and the Pomona Travelers on tours that included Greece and Uzbekistan. She also traveled with her two sons and their families to Scotland. She was a member of the League of Women Voters and of the Rembrandt Club. She was a Pomona Valley Hospital volunteer, a volunteer and gallery-sitter at the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona, and regularly volunteered at the Claremont Colleges’ International Festival. Ms. Toovey also took classes at the Joslyn Center. One of her favorite classes was the “All the World’s a Stage” theater class, which focused on reading and studying a chosen play and then getting out to a theater to see a production of the play. 

The last eight years of Ms. Toovey’s life were made more difficult with bouts of recurring Basal cell cancer and other health-related problems. She said she was annoyed at how much “the medical stuff” was cramping her style. However, she would make the most of her runs for treatment at UCLA Medical Center by having lunch at her favorite French restaurant in the Farmers Market off Fairfax in LA. Up until the last few months of her life, she remained resourceful, ferociously independent and socially active.

Ms. Toovey is survived by her three children and two grandchildren.

A memorial gathering will take place on Sunday, January 5, 2014 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the dA Center for the Arts, located at 252 S. Main Street #D in Pomona. The Night Blooming Jazzmen will play. The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the dA Center for the Arts, 252 S. Main St. #D, Pomona, CA 91766.

 

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