East Suffolk High School’s own

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Special to the News-Herald

(Thelma Boyd Toler is a graduate of the former East Suffolk High School. Like many of the school’s graduates, Toler has achieved enormous success both in her career, and in the community service arena. The following is an article written by Andrea Tallaferro, a freelance writer who was commissioned by Toler to cover her retirement ceremony and write her biography.)

A living legend in her own right, Thelma Boyd Toler, who attended East Suffolk Elementary School and graduated from East Suffolk High School, Class of 1955, is a shining example that the dreams of a child can indeed come true.

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Having developed her &uot;roots&uot; in Suffolk, Mrs. Toler is the daughter of the late Josephine Boyd Fields and Al Junius Fields, Sr. of North Capitol Street (Jericho) Suffolk, Virginia.

The retirement ceremony held in Washington, DC on July 2 at the luxurious Washington Plaza Hotel Grand Ballroom for Mrs. Toler was a testament to her years of dedicated service. More importantly, it was an opportune time for the numerous individuals, which she’s successfully mentored through the years, to say &uot;thank you.&uot;

For her, being a Small Business Specialist for the Office of Administration, Executive Office of the President, was never just a job – it was a mission.

Throughout her distinguished career, her goals were not simply self oriented – she diligently sought, taught and brought others to greater heights in their respective professions.

A dedicated mother, she raised three sons, upholding standards for excellence that resulted in spiritual, familial and professional success in their respective lives. Mrs. Toler is a member of The People’s Community Baptist Church, Silver Spring, Maryland; Life Member, National Council of Negro Women, Inc., Potomac Valley Section; Past Matron, Zorah Chapter No. 36, Order of the Eastern Star, PHA, Rockville, Maryland; Illustrious Commandress, Anwar Court No. 197, Daughter of Isis, PHA, Rockville, Maryland.

Speaker-upon-speaker, the accolades, awards, letters of commendation came pouring in. Presenters included: Ada L. Posey, Director of Diversity and Compliance, Raytheon Technical Services; Dr. Sandra Evans, Chief Operating Officer, Executive Office of the President; William Raspberry, Syndicated Columnist, The Washington Post; Frank LaLumiere, Deputy Associate Director, Small Business Administration; Martin Williams, Executive Director, National Industries for the Severely Handicapped; The Honorable Herman L. Taylor, II, Maryland State Delegate; Deaconess Phyllis H. Davenport, National Council of Negro Women and Mrs. Toler’s three sons: Dr. Joel L. Boyd (Orthopedic Surgeon, specializing in Sports Medicine in Minnesota), Mr. Herbert H. Toler, Jr. (Doctoral Candidate in History at Columbia University in New York City), and Dr. Al D. Toler (Dentistry Practice in Maryland).

For Thelma Boyd Toler, this was her crowning moment in history, marked by love, respect, personal and professional admiration.

Carving the image of her life story, making it analogous to daytime soaps or evening dramas, syndicated columnist, William Raspberry, wove a tapestry of her brilliant life’s work.

According to Mr. Raspberry, Mrs. Toler’s attributes, accomplishments and professional contributions ranged from her being a &uot;Guiding Light, that made all who knew, affiliated or worked with her, feel like they had been &uot;Touched by an Angel.&uot;

When one person can bring together a huge gathering, representing a rainbow of family, friends, co-workers, past and present, colleagues, church leaders and members, organizational affiliates, mentees, surrogate sons and daughters – it creates a spiritual ambiance that feels surreal, yet glaringly sacred.

And, as God would have it, an unplanned, surprise visit from Arlethia Elliott, Mrs. Toler’s 10th grade teacher (I’m not drinking.

It was her 10th grade teacher) gave further evidence that we all are touched by Angels.

When I asked Mrs. Toler whom or what was the driving force in her life, she stated that God was her source for all she’s accomplished and she’s grateful to have been so blessed.

When I further queried, what was most important in her life goals, she responded, &uot;If I can do one thing to help someone along the way, then my living has not been in vain.&uot;

As her 10th grade teacher, Mrs. Elliott aptly stated, &uot;Rare is it that a human body can wake up and put out the energy that Mrs. Toler has for 44 1/2 years.

Knowing her, she’ll be the same ‘energetic dynamo’ in any other adventure she takes.&uot;

As a matter of fact, what will she do next?

Stay tuned.