Sally E. O’Toole

Wife, mother, grandmother

Longtime Claremont resident Sara Elizabeth “Sally” O’Toole died on May 9, 2012 at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center. She was 76.

Born on November 28, 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mrs. O’Toole lived in Okinawa, Japan during high school when her father, a US Air Force officer, was stationed there. Having loved her time in Okinawa, she later returned with her family.

On December 29, 1956, she married Joseph W. O’Toole, whom she had met on a blind date while attending Florida State University in Tallahassee. Like Mrs. O’Toole’s father, Ret. Col. O’Toole was also in the US Air Force, serving as a pilot.

Later, after some coursework at Florida State, Mrs. O’Toole took additional classes at Wichita State University in Kansas. Eventually, she earned her degree at Cal Poly Pomona, graduating alongside her daughter, Patti O’Toole Eckert.

“We walked together to receive our diplomas in 1981. It was very cool!” said Patti, a Claremont resident. 

In the mid-1960s, Mrs. O’Toole returned to Okinawa with her entire family, including 4 young children. There, she took cooking classes in which she learned to prepare Chinese food, “which we all still claim is our favorite!” said her daughter, Patti.  

While her husband completed his military tours of duty, Mrs. O’Toole served as the president of the Officers’ Wives’ Club during their assignments in Okinawa as well as Georgia.

After moving to Claremont in the mid-1970s, Mrs. O’Toole began volunteering for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (now Learning Ally) as a reader. She also taught CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) classes at Our Lady of the Assumption Church for many years.

An impressive trivia buff, Mrs.          O’Toole frequently trounced family members with her knowledge during a variety of trivia shows—Jeopardy was a favorite. Many years ago, the O’Toole family appeared on Family Feud when Richard Dawson was the host.

“And she LOVED Vegas!” her daughter shared.

For a number of years, she worked for the Claremont Chamber of Commerce, followed by employment at Christopher Michael’s Photography Studios for a long period.  

Even when her eyesight began deteriorating, Mrs. O’Toole continued to read avidly, devouring book after book while holding a small magnifying glass. She also loved to play bridge and enjoyed weekly outings to El Ranchero Restaurant on Foothill Boulevard for Wednesday night margaritas. 

It was in June 2011 that Mrs. O’Toole was diagnosed with cancer. During her illness, droves of friends demonstrated great kindness, visiting her, sitting and talking with her, reading to her or taking her out for a quiet stroll in her wheelchair.

“We were all very blessed during a very difficult time, and my mom fought a gallant battle,” said her daughter, Patti. “Everyone, all of her friends and family, were so wonderful with the tremendous love and support they showed. My father took such great care of her, and she knew in the end that we were all with her when she finally let her body rest and her spirit go to heaven.”

Mrs. O’Toole is survived by her husband of 55 years, Joseph O’Toole of Claremont; her daughter and son-in-law, Mary O’Toole Phillips and Bill Phillips of Aliso Viejo; her daughter, Patti O’Toole Eckert of Claremont; her daughter and son-in-law, Kathy O’Toole Ghering and John Ghering of Roswell, Georgia; her son and daughter-in-law, Joseph W. O’Toole, Jr. and Fen O’Toole of Claremont; her 10 grandchildren, Drew and Cammi Phillips, JP, Connor and Spencer Eckert, Kylie, Sara and Matt Ghering and Shannon and Ryan O’Toole; and by her brother and sister-in-law, Phillip and Lois Copeland, who split their time between Ohio and Laguna Woods. 

A Rosary will take place at 1:30 p.m. this Friday, May 18, 2012 with a Funeral Mass immediately following at 2 p.m. at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Claremont. A reception will follow at the O’Toole residence. Mrs. O’Toole’s ashes will be interred at 10:45 a.m. on Monday, May 21, 2012 at Riverside National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Robert & Beverly Lewis Family Cancer Care Center, PVHMC, 1910 Royalty Dr., Pomona, CA 91767.


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