Toni McGowan, wife of Stephen McGowan, mother of Miles Thiel and Brittani Thiel, and grandmother of Ella, passed away peacefully on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, at her home in Coronado.
She was born on May 9, 1957, in Palm Springs, California, to Charles Turnipseed and Doris Klindt Naccarato. One of her earliest ties to Coronado was the move of her maternal grandparents, Carl and Ruth Klindt, in the 1930s. Carl was on the Coronado Police Department. Toni may have inherited her love of writing from them; Carl wrote a hunting and sports column for the San Diego Sun newspaper and Ruth wrote poetry.
Including being a published author of the novel “Magnificats” (under pseudonym Gwyn Dolyn), Toni was an active member of the local writing group, the Coronado Scribes, and wrote for the Coronado Eagle & Journal, the Imperial Beach Eagle & Times and the Coronado Magazine. Some of her favorite topics to write about were stories of local veterans or on local history. She made dear friends with all she interviewed.
Toni was also a talented painter and healer. She enjoyed traveling abroad. An especially memorable journey was with Stephen to Ireland, which inspired the magical feline characters in her novel “Magnificats.” Toni also loved to entertain, especially on July 4th when she and Stephen would supply pancakes and mimosas to a house crowded with family, friends, and neighbors.
Toni created a significant legacy of community service. One of her first jobs was working as a volunteer teacher in Sedona, Arizona, where her son Miles attended school, while waitressing at night to pay the bills. One of her most rewarding job experiences was working as an EMT in Sedona. After completing her BA in educational psychology, she focused her career and energy on helping young people. In San Diego, she developed a program for firefighters to mentor youth, worked with at-risk youth through the San Diego Youth Services, and advocated for foster children during her tenure at Voices for Children. In recent years, Toni became a strong proponent of honoring local military members. She developed and successfully advocated for establishment of the “Avenue of Heroes,” a military service recognition program sponsored by the City of Coronado. She also worked in conjunction with the Avenue of Heroes Neighborhood Association and other organizations for State Route 282/the Avenue of Heroes to be designated as a Blue Star Memorial Highway, paying tribute to the nation’s armed forces.
In 2018, when Toni and Stephen moved to their new home in Imperial Beach, Toni dove into historic preservation advocacy. She lobbied the Imperial Beach city council to adopt California’s Mills Act, which provides tax incentives to owners of historic properties. On the day Toni passed, the San Diego Union Tribune reported that the city was considering adopting an ordinance to create a Mills Act program.
Toni’s entire being was so focused on enriching and improving the lives of others, that she shared the extent of her own illness with very few people. She did not want to be perceived as a victim or become the object of pity, and she adamantly refused to allow anything to interfere with her personal mission of “giving.” Although Toni ultimately succumbed to her illness, her grace and love have shown the rest of us how to thrive, even in the midst of great adversity. Toni’s strength, creativity, and generosity are enduring gifts to everyone who knew her.
She is survived by husband Stephen McGowan; her children Miles (Kristin Shea) Thiel and Brittani Thiel; granddaughter Ella Roberts; her mother Doris Klindt Naccarato and father Charles (Margie) Turnipseed; siblings Debby (John) Gumb, Robin Candee Courtney, Charles (Margarita) Walling; and nephews Jamie Downs, Maiky Amador
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Warrior Foundation Freedom Station or Metastatic Breast Cancer research.