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Donna M. Tobias

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Donna M. Tobias Obituary
Waterford - Donna M. Tobias, 58, took her own life after a long and brave struggle with depression on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010.

Born in Los Angeles, Calif., May 22, 1952, Donna joined the U.S. Navy because of her love of the water. She holds the distinction of being the Navy's first female deep sea diver and a member of the Female Diver's Hall of Fame.

Donna was assigned to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton, where she taught sailors how to escape from a submarine using the escape training tank. She also worked in ports on naval vessels, took part in search and salvage operations in Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, and participated in the sinking of a World War II ship to construct an artificial reef in Chesapeake Bay. She worked in the hyperbaric chamber, which treats divers suffering embolisms, as well as people with carbon monoxide poisoning and gangrene.

Donna left the Navy in 1980 and earned a bachelor's degree in education, a master's degree in psychology, and became certified to teach special education. She taught at the Capitol Region Education Council in Hartford and later retired from her teaching position at New London High School.

In retirement, Donna volunteered as a handler and caretaker for elderly and special needs horses at Mitchell Farm Equine Retirement, Inc. in Salem, where a marble memorial will be permanently placed to honor her contribution.

She was a true renaissance woman with a passion for stone and wood carving, composing and performing music, carpentry, photography, nonfiction, the American Southwest, and all things related to animals, nature, and the sea.

She is survived by her mother, Marie Ferguson of Arkansas; brothers, Gary Tobias of Norwich and Doug Tobias of Morro Bay, Calif.; two nieces, Justine Tobias of Norwich and Jennifer Bossie of Berlin, Conn.; a nephew, Nathan Tobias of California and Nathan's newly born son, Colton.

She was predeceased by her father, Elmer Earle Tobias, to whom she was deeply endeared; and her best beloved companion and dog, Monty.

Donna's family will greet relatives and friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, at the Thomas L. Neilan & Sons Funeral Home, 12 Ocean Ave., New London. A very special memorial service will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, at Waterford Beach, cross the bridge and follow signs on your left to the gathering. Please bring multiple beach chairs and/or blankets. Following the service there will be a potluck reception at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 60 Huntington St., New London. In case of inclement weather, the memorial service will take place at 3 p.m. at All Souls.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in her memory may be directed to Mitchell Farm Equine Retirement, Inc., 300 East Haddam Road, Route 82, Salem CT 06420.

Published in The Day on Sept. 30, 2010
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