Thomas Toy, a 30-plus year resident of Rockville Centre, spent most of his life giving back to his community. The retired maritime lawyer and father of four died on Oct. 14, 2020, at age 83, after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.
Toy’s children described him as intelligent, caring and witty, a man who continued to read the newspaper until his final days and who could always be counted on to assist with homework. His son, Robert Toy, of Valley Stream, also described his father as “a fighter.”
“Life started throwing him curve balls early on, but to his last day, he never let anything stop him,” he said, noting that his father faced a lot of physical pain and limitations throughout his life due to contracting polio as a child. “He had the ability to overcome whatever obstacles were placed in front of him and not only get past them, but be able to use his experience to be a better person for it and try to pass his wisdom on to his family.”
Toy was born in Manhattan on Sept. 27, 1937, the oldest of four children. For high school, he attended The Hill, a boarding school in Pennsylvania, and went on to attend Seton Hall University, Johns Hopkins University and St. John’s University School of Law. He practiced maritime law for Hill Rivkins & Hayden LLP in New York City for many years until he retired in 2002.
He and his wife, Pam, married on Feb. 20, 1965, and the couple lived in Rockville Centre from 1975 until 2007. During his time in the village, Toy was involved in the Rockville Centre Soccer Club, serving as a coach and a commissioner. A devout Catholic and member of St. Agnes Parish in Rockville Centre, he and Pam taught Pre-Cana at St. Agnes starting in 1978, a marriage preparation program, until the early 2000s. Pam said her husband was soft-spoken and a genuinely nice person.
“He was just a caring and concerned human being,” she said. “He wanted the best for everybody and did what he could to help others.”
Yet her husband, known by many as “Tuck” or “Tucker” did face hardships throughout his life, both physical and emotional. His polio diagnosis did not prevent him from being active, but it did cause limitations. He joined the Army ROTC during college and became a first lieutenant, but was medically discharged because the polio symptoms meant he would be unable to actively fight in combat, according to his wife. And in 2001, he began developing post-polio syndrome, and eventually required use of a wheelchair. Even though his health was gradually declining, he remained involved in the lives of his children, grandchildren and the community.
“He lived a very full, fulfilling life,” Pam said. “And our kids have been there for us.”
Perhaps his biggest contribution was starting the St. Agnes Council Knights of Columbus Blood Drive, which he began in 1993, after his daughter Betsy died of leukemia.
Kevin Green, chancellor of the St. Agnes Council Knights of Columbus, said that the blood drives raised about 200 to 250 pints of blood per year, estimating that about 6,500 pints of blood were collected over the 30 years that Toy headed up the drive. “He was an amazing guy,” Green said. “He did a lot for us.”
According to Grand Knight Phil Paoli, Toy became a knight in 2003, earning the rank of fourth degree knight in 2015. This status meant that members of the Cardinal Mercier Fourth Degree Council served as honor guards during the wake. “He was very dedicated,” Paoli said. “And he was very intelligent. He always gave well thought out, well-rounded opinions during our meetings. Many members already miss him for that.”
Some of the members, according to Paoli, said he was a “true example of goodness” and “a gentle soul who helped so many with his passion to provide blood for others.”
The most recent blood drive was held on Sept. 27 – Toy’s 83rd birthday – which raised 44 units of blood, according to Pam. The council is now planning to rename the blood drive in Toy’s honor, Paoli said.
Pam said the loss of Betsy, followed by the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, altered her husband’s outlook on life somewhat. “He didn’t have the same enthusiasm for the world as he used after that,” she said. “It was rough for awhile, but they say things like that change you for the better.”
Toy himself acknowledged in his 50th high school reunion yearbook that coping with the loss was “overwhelming,” yet helped him to “become more compassionate towards others.”
Due to his declining health, the couple moved into with his daughter and son-in-law, Margaret and Craig Goodwin of Oceanside, and their son William, now 10.
Toy is also survived by his son Tom Jr. and his wife Jill, of Oceanside; daughter-in-law Josephine of Valley Stream, grandchildren Casey, Christian, Brenna, Daniel, Rebecca; sister Bonnie Audrain and brother Peter, both of Georgia, and brother Chris Toy, of Manhattan. He is predeceased by his daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) and granddaughter Emma-Mèabh. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Star Legacy Foundation or Juvenile Diabetes.