Revisiting My Mentors #5: Dr. Donald Toomey

The last time I wrote about mentors #5 was devoted to the Marvel Universe – a companion of mine from 1987-1989 in the form of 9 titles.

This time around I am skipping straight to my mom’s dad – Grandpa Toomey.

Dr. Donald Toomey is my mom’s dad. He is not her biological father, and I don’t know when I learned that, but it never made any difference – he was always Grandpa, her dad, etc.

Grandpa enlisted early and was a photographer at Nuremberg.  I recently copied and re-printed one of his photo albums of this time.  It was a very good way to spend some time with Grandpa.

I got to go to their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2001, where my Grandma could not stop talking about the kiss “he planted on me” on Friday night.

He did not attend my high school graduation because this did not impress him, and he told me he would attend my college one (which he did). I thought it was funny then, and I think it is funny now.

Grandpa had a PHD in Geology (Grandma drew the pictures – meticulously for his thesis). He was a learned man, and spent his retirement making young artists famous in New Mexico with his journal articles. He wrote a book about 19th Century California Missions and especially the influence of Father Junipero Serra I remember him showing me the system in his library – all the books standing up were the ones he had read, and the ones laying down were on his “to-read” shelf.

This is a picture of the periodical he wrote for until his death.

In 1999 I discussed a book on Revelation that attempted to read it as 3 scrolls; letters, worship, and war. 9 years later he and I began writing letters to one another and he asked me to send him the book. That is how thoughtful and intelligent he was.  He read the book and sent it back to me.

My grandpa has weaknesses. I think he would have wished for a degree in psychology to heal all of the wounds in his own family.

I received my Masters of Divinity in 2009.  Of all of my grandparents, he would have been the most proud.  My brother has a PHD in Philosophy – and that is in no small part related to our grandfather.

He is famous for his retorts following someone sneezing. The first sneeze would generally go unrecognized, but the second received one of 2 responses, “Oh, wipe it off the walls!” or, “Once more and we’ll vote on it!” And if you sneezed a third time, you might hear, “Oh shut up!” Said in fun.

Grandpa died in 2009 in his office. He was in the house with the only woman he ever loved, he went peacefully. I think my remembrance/mentoring is this: Grandpa loved well. He loved his wife, his daughters, learning. If he was my only mentor I think I would be okay.

Shortly after he died, Grandma sent me one of his sculptures – of St. Francis. St. Francis means a lot to me, but he means more because I believe this sculpture was on Grandpa’s desk. Thanks Grandma.

As a grandson it is especially wonderful to think about how well he loved his wife and how well he loved my mom. It still makes me happy, even as I wish I could have more time with him. Thankfully, I’m confident I will get that time eventually.

This is a picture he took of the gas station where Mussolini was hanged (not to execution, but following his execution).  What must it have been like to take this picture?

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