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PASSAGES Toni Armstrong Sr.
2012-12-21

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Antoinette R. Armstrong (née Antoninia Mikolyczyk/Toni Michaels) aka Toni Armstrong Sr., died Dec. 18, 2012. Born June 3, 1925 in Chicago, Toni Sr. lived in the South Seas, Texas, various towns in California, and ended her days in Florida with her daughter and daughter-in-law. She passed peacefully in her sleep after a long illness.

Toni Sr.'s achievements and passions included creative writing; Riverview amusement park; hot air ballooning in Albuquerque; international and domestic travel; RVing; laughing hard with her friends and family; supporting progressive political causes; and attending women's music events and festivals.

In the final three years of her life, she was active in building two organizations in Palm Beach County: Empty Closet Productions, and BLAST (Bi, Lesbian and Straight Together) Women of the Palm Beaches.

Her incredible professional life included doing post-WWII work alongside the military for five years in Guam and Okinawa; being a legal secretary at prestigious law firms in Los Angeles and Chicago; and coordinating the genetic dysplasias research clinic at UCLA. Additionally she and her life-partner of 50 years, Lois Barleman (deceased 2009), co-owned a dog kennel/dog-breeding/dog-showing business for many years.

In her last year of life, a photo of her in her wheelchair at a protest march holding a sign reading "Happy 86-Year-Old Lesbian" was featured on the cover of Lesbian Connection magazine, and she was delighted to own a photo of President Obama holding up the magazine. She loved doing anything that would advance dignified lesbian or feminist visibility and equality. Over the years, Toni Sr. served as mentor and mother figure to many women whose own families had rejected them for being gay.

Toni Sr. is survived by her daughter Toni Jr.; two devoted sisters, Chris Jacobs and Flo Engvall; her daughter-in-law Janis Kidder; several caring nieces and nephews; countless friends whose lives she brightened and improved; and her beloved pet cockatiel JoJo.

Celebrations of life will be held in early 2013 at Compass in Lake Worth, Florida, and at Pilgrim Creek in Oceanside, California. Contact toniajr@earthlink.net for details. Per Toni Sr.'s request, her ashes will be spread in a specific spot in the Hawaiian (Maui) waters.

DONATIONS: Beloved troublemaker and role model Toni Sr. requested that donations in her honor be sent to one of these: (1) Empty Closet Productions/BLAST, specifically to pay for professional sound equipment, lights, etc. Toni Sr. was extremely happy to see lesbian and feminist concerts happening in Palm Beach County, and hoped her passing would contribute to the continuation of more productions. In her final days, she said several times she was especially sorry she would be missing the upcoming Lisa Koch and Cris Williamson concerts; she was very satisfied to have seen Lucie Blue Tremblay perform one more time. Checks made out to Toni Armstrong Jr., 1201 Sugar Sands, Riviera Beach, FL 33404 (put TONI SR/ECP in the subject line). Credit card donations via www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/send-money-online — use seller name toniajr@earthlink.net (put TONI SR/ECP in the message box). (2) Hospice of Palm Beach County provided home support for almost a year, as well as the final week of in-patient hospice care. Checks to Hospice of Palm Beach County Foundation, 5300 East Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33407. Online donations: hpbcf.org/make-a-gift. (Please indicate that your donation is in the memory of ANTOINETTE ARMSTRONG.)


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