LAKELAND - Mary Shawn Toothman -- mother, columnist, reporter, friend and fighter to the end -- called it a draw May 23, 2021, after a five-year battle with cancer. Mary, born March 3, 1955, in Lakeland to the late Nelda and Rex Toothman, has lived in the Lakeland and Tampa areas for the majority of her life. A graduate of the University of South Florida, Mary worked for both The Ledger and Tampa Tribune, starting as a news clerk at The Ledger. Then displaying her natural curiosity and way with words, she worked to become a reporter at The Ledger, later a columnist for the Tribune and then returned to The Ledger. She last worked as a freelance writer for various Polk County publications. There was no assignment too risky or ridiculous for Mary to attempt and there were many times she returned much later to the office because she had spent extra time and tears with her subject. Readers may remember at least three of Mary's most read reports: the death of young Bradley McGee and the reforms in the foster care system that resulted; the premise, debates and then development of Florida Polytechnic University; and the visit to one of Florida's first nudist colonies. With her friends, Mary cut through the hyperbole and got to the point, often with a glare and the rebuke ' For xxxx's sake.' Although not always charming, she exacted a loyalty from those who knew her for years or just a few months that was in full display during her last months. She leaves behind her son, Taylor Toothman Dunn, and his wife Kinna and 2 grandchildren; her sister, Nancy Murray; brothers Tommy Toothman and Billy Gay, and their children, along with too many friends to count. She also leaves behind a novel full of experiences and stories to tell. Her heart most belonged to her beloved babies, Miss Scarlett and Stella. A celebration of life for Mary will be held at a later date.
Published by The Ledger from May 25 to May 26, 2021.
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I miss you my dear friend. We shared something that was purely divine. You are forever with me and will always be my soulmate.
June 18, 2021
Mary’s favorite poet was another Mary (Oliver) who said to lead a fulfilling life, one should “Pay attention. Be amazed. Tell about it.” That was our own songbird’s mission as a free spirited writer of stories about other folks and as a wide eyed naturalist. Mary desired to be the “bride to amazement” and she not only got to the altar, but she also honeymooned all her incredible life.
May 31, 2021
Many fond early childhood memories of Mary when she lived in Tallahassee. My heart goes out to Taylor, Nancy, Tommy , Billy and families. Mary was a spirited kind hearted friend who truly will be missed!
Connie Chandler Bond
May 25, 2021
A force like no other; a spirit never extinguished. Prayers for her family’s comfort, and blessings to her endless spirit.