My wonderful friendship with Toni spanned 35 years and 3 locations. We got together weekly during our busy working lives in San Diego and I visited her in Portland several times and Milwaukee once. We've taken vacations together (to San Francisco & to the East coast).
Toni was generous, talented, accomplished, dedicated to her students, family, friends, intelligent, committed to learning, inquisitive, quirky-funny, ever changing, but ever fixed (?? If you know Toni, that may make sense. :)
I cannot count the number of gourmet meals I ate at Toni's well-appointed home (she loved Martha Stewart recipes; her cookware was of the highest quality; her table was artistically set). We spent many an evening with a bottle of wine, a 3-course meal, reading poetry, discussing a myriad of non-related subjects, solving the world's problems and our own, and adjourning to the TV room for a night of BBC comedies, an indy film or a PBS series.
In 1997 Toni and I took a 3-week trip to the East coast. We hiked the Freedom Trail, trekked Walden Pond at sunset, meandered through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, toured the Emerson House, Branson Alcott's Transcendental Society, perused the collections at the Widener Library and the Sylvia Plath memorabilia at Smith College, explored the grounds of Emily Dickinson's home in Amherst, attended services at Old North Church, did the Salem Witch thing, marveled at the House of Seven Gables and the Custom House, dined at the Hawthorne Hotel, ate steamer clams in Marblehead, and drank beer at Cheers and Sam Adams Brewery (and a few other enticing little pubs). We toured the Cape, stopping at seafood joints with live bands and often kicked up our heels on the dance floor. Spending time with Toni meant combining the scholarly and intellectual with the bawdy and/or giddy.
We laughed ourselves silly over the antics of Rowen Atkinson, Benny Hill, "One Foot in the Grave," our fellow man, ourselves, and the general absurdities of life. We could always make each other laugh.
Toni was an avid reader (of quality literature only!) and she introduced me to some of my favorite authors (A.S. Byatt, Anita Brookner, Iris Murdock, Donna Tartt). Before book clubs became ubiquitous (a word I first heard from Toni), we started a book club, and it is still going strong today.
Toni and I saw each other through personal crises, professional glitches, disappointments, divorces, illnesses and deaths. (This time I'll have to go it alone)
One of Toni's greatest gifts was her magic with words and poetry was her medium. She was a superb poet, and her lines rang with music and trueness. She loved the discipline of higher education, and seriously contemplated getting her doctorate after retirement. Instead she took numerous classes and workshops in poetry and her professors readily acknowledged her talents. She was my audience when I memorized "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" section by section.
Toni has left a stamp on my life. The tiny quilted pillow she autographed, the quilted wall hanging she made for my mother's last apartment, the antique ring she found at an estate sale, the Lisa Ceccorilli earrings and pendant, the 50-page scrapbook of our
trip back East, her picture in a collage of photos on my bureau, a rose top she knitted. Our lives have intertwined with mementos and most importantly with memories.
Toni also demonstrated her creativity in the crafts of knitting and quilting. As with everything else she pursued, she scoured the finer craft shops for quality yarns and fabrics. She would then create a piece of beauty and promptly give it away to those she loved.
I feel very fortunate that I was one of those she loved.
Suzanne Geba (Hawes)