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Antonia "Tosh" Lee

1933 - 2013 Obituary Condolences
Antonia "Tosh" Lee

London, England formerly of Coon Rapids, Ia

Antonia "Tosh" Lee died at her home in London, England, on November 25th, 2013. Her remains have been cremated in accordance with her wishes, and memorial services will take place at her home in London and her childhood home in Coon Rapids, IA.

Antonia was born March 30, 1933, the fourth of five children of Roswell and Elizabeth Garst. Her mother wanted her to have a good Bohemian name and named her after Willa Cather's novel, "My Antonia." Elizabeth became worried that her friends might shorten the name to "Tony" and that reminded her of Al Capone and the gangsters in Chicago and the nickname, "Toshie," a native American term referring to the youngest, was suggested by her Uncle Jack. The name stuck and she was known as Tosh throughout her life.

Tosh grew up in Coon Rapids, graduating from Coon Rapids High School in 1950 and Grinnell College in 1954. She lived in Chicago for a while with some great friends from Grinnell and always fondly referred to Chicago as her first city. While at graduate school for English Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, she met her love, Harold, at a coffee shop on Telegraph Avenue. She always maintained that it was love at first sight. They were married six months later in August of 1958, in her parents' living room at the home farm, and remained married until his death in 2006.

After marrying, Harold and Tosh moved to New York City and lived in Harlem for a few years while Harold studied journalism and Tosh worked as a secretary for a Jewish business that supplied janitorial supplies for Catholic businesses. They then moved to Pittsburgh for three years while Harold taught at Carnegie Tech. Tosh always said those were three of the happiest years of her life. They next moved to Boston, where Harold entered the doctoral program in English literature at Harvard University, and Tosh was able to pursue her interest in education first discovered at the University of California. She got her teaching credentials at Northeastern University and started teaching in Abington, MA.

During the 1960s, Tosh and Harold divided their time between Boston and London while Harold was working on his medieval research. Tim and Amy were born during these years; Tim in London in 1964 and Amy in Boston in 1968. The family settled permanently in London in 1975 and soon after she got the teaching job that she loved at the American School in London. She taught there from 1975 until her retirement from teaching in 1998, while Harold taught in the Grinnell in London program from 1974 to 1993.

Harold and Tosh's commitment to education is also shown by their support of Grinnell College over the years, and by the creation and total funding in 1988 of the Roswell and Elizabeth Garst Foundation which provided scholarships to students of Iowa State University, Grinnell College, and the Carroll campus of Des Moines Area Community College. The foundation has expanded to include donations to community needs in Carroll County and the state of Iowa as a whole. The Lees were honored by Grinnell for their contributions in recent years by a classroom. "The classroom located at the Conrad Environmental Research Area being constructed is officially named the Garst Environmental classroom in gratitude of the generosity of Harold Lee and Antonia Garst Lee, class of 1954… this classroom in the new facility at CERA is named to recognize the commitment and contribution of members of the Garst and Lee families to environmentally responsible farming and conservation practices of Iowa."

Tosh had a lifelong love of music, singing in a trio and choruses in her school days and continued singing over the years in places that she and Harold lived. She was a member of the Royal Choral Society, the chorus of the Royal Albert Hall, for many years and other choruses in retirement. She took up the clarinet in retirement, playing with friends and for the Bloomsbury Wind Ensemble. She kept up her love of music to the end of her life. She sang in her last Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall in the December 2012, and played her last clarinet concert with BWE in the summer of 2013.

Deeply committed to social justice, Tosh leant her voice and feet to causes she believed in. She and Harold worked for the Kennedy campaign in Pittsburgh, protested the Vietnam war and Iraq wars, was active with democrats abroad and registered people to vote, and most recently, in 2013, attended protests against hospital closures in London. She was an avid newspaper reader until the day before she died, frequently bemoaning the state of the world that she was leaving behind.

Tosh will be remembered for being a standup Democrat, for her lifelong commitment to education, and for her love of music. Most of all we will remember her for how she lived…her breathtaking vigor and enthusiasm for life; her dynamic curiosity which was an inspiration to so many of us.

Tosh is survived by her two children, Tim and Amy; Amy's spouse Mariko; grandsons, Nathan and Zachary; sisters, Jane Kamps and Mary Garst, both of California; sister-in-law, Mary G. Garst, Coon Rapids; and numerous nieces and nephews and many dear friends. Tosh was preceded in death by Harold in 2006, her parents, and brothers, David Garst and Stephen Garst.

There will be a wake at Tosh's London home (13 Twyford Ave., Ealing W.3 9PY, London, UK) on December 8, at 3:00 p.m.

On December 14, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the home farm (Antonia "Tosh" Lee's childhood home) on Highway 141, in Coon Rapids, the family and close friends will gather for remembrance. From 12:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., there will be an open house at the home farm for anyone who wishes to attend and remember Antonia "Tosh" Lee.

Memorial contributions may be made to Roswell & Elizabeth Garst Foundation in care of Iowa Savings Bank, Coon Rapids, Iowa.

Published in Des Moines Register on Dec. 4, 2013
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