A good role model

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Thelma Boyd Toler, a resident of Silver Springs, Md., is a perfect role model for the single mother who seeks to climb to the top of the ladder in a career, who seeks excellent careers for her children and for children who are born in a community where many children have no hope of climbing to the top.

Toler was reared in the Jericho section of Suffolk and attended the former East Suffolk Elementary and High Schools. After graduating from ESH in 1955, she attended the Cortez Peters Business School in Washington D.C.

After she completed Cortez Peters she passed the Civil Service Exam and filled a clerk typist position. Upon the advice of a close trusted friend and confidant, Edna M. Thompson, regarding a federal job opportunity, she continued her search for employment in that field. She said she did not want to return to Suffolk where most blacks were hired at that time, Planters Peanut Co.

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Toler said that she had nothing against those who sought employment there, but she wanted to achieve something more for her life.

Toler was willing to accept any job in Washington, D.C. to get her feet in the door. She was hired and worked for a week in the cafeteria of the Old Executive Office Building in D.C., slicing pies and placing desserts on shelves until a call came from the General Service Administration for an interview. Although she qualified for a GS-3 and desired to flee the federal pie shop, she gladly accepted a position as a GS-2 Addressograph Operator. On October 5, 1959, she began her federal career during the Eisenhower Administration and worked for one year as an Addressograph Operator. Soon after, she advanced to a clerk typist position typing stencils and requisitions for bids.

Toler’s oldest son, Joel L. Boyd, was born in 1957 while she was working to achieve these goals. In October 1966, she got married and she and her husband had two other sons, Herbert H. Toler Jr., born in 1967, and Al David Toler came along in 1970.

In 1963 during the Kennedy Administration Toler became a procurement clerk and timekeeper and was responsible for separating, preparing and forwarding purchase orders. Toler recalls that under Kennedy’s administration, segregation ended in the federal government.

In 1973 when Toler was only 30, she and her husband divorced and he went back home to Mississippi to take care of his mother, she said. She was also faced with buying him out of the home that they lived in for only two years. Toler says her husband never looked back, and she never received any child support. Whenever she tried, there was too much red tape and other complications. This is when Toler decided that nothing or no one would destroy the dreams she had for herself and her sons. However, she still didn’t talk against her husband to her children, and told them to always love their father despite any differences that they had.

Toler’s strong will and determination caused her to climb to new heights with Kennedy’s closing of military bases. That was when she was promoted and trained as an Inventory Management Specialist with the General Service Administration (GSA). In this position she served as a purchasing agent, contract negotiator, contract specialist, contract administrator, and Procurement Analyst for the Javis-Wagner-O’Day Program. She said that she had so much work to do that she could not get through it all at the office; however, with son Joel’s help sorting out her paper work alphabetically, she was successful and said that this was how he learned his alphabets.

In order to get all her sons through school, she worked two additional jobs. Her parents had a garden and canned foods from it. Whenever she came to visit them in Suffolk, she loaded these canned goods up and carried them back home to Silver Springs to offset her food bill. She also said that friends and neighbors played big roles in her rearing her sons while she worked; but they expressed often that she was too mean and strict on her children because of her tough rules.

&uot;I taught them that they did not have options and that I worked for them, they did not work for me. I also told them that they are going to get their work, get good grades and are going to college. When they graduated from high school, they held their heads high. I told them constantly that if they had a love of themselves and love for God they would make it because if you love yourself, you will not allow certain things to happen to you. I think some parents are too easy with their kids today,&uot; she said.

Herbert Jr. said that he and his brothers knew they were a little mischievous at times, but also knew they had to calm down. &uot;We didn’t go out drinking and driving because we knew we had to face her when we got in.&uot; he said.

In 1980 Toler was detailed to the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to assist with contract closeouts after President Carter’s administration. She subsequently returned to the EOP in 1989 to help again with contract closeouts between Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr.’s administrations. While on detail at the EOP, she was offered and accepted a job as a contract administrator for the COP Office of Administration and served as Small Business Specialist during the Administrations of Bill Clinton, and George H. Bush Jr. She retired from her career after 44 1/2 years of service this year.

With very few scholarships for her sons’ education, she said she refinanced her home three times to finance their education each time one son entered an institution of higher learning. Today, all three are prominent doctors: Dr. Joel L. Boyd is an Orthopedic Surgeon in Minnesota; Herbert H. Toler Jr. is a doctoral candidate in history at Columbia University in New York City; and Dr. Al David Toler is a dentist and a funeral home director in Maryland. Toler also has seven grandchildren.

Tomorrow, Toler will travel to Suffolk to join other schoolmates in its second official East Suffolk High School Reunion.

Even though she is a role model to many, she will go down in history as a legendary example of a well-planted seed that continues to blossom to new levels of potential.