- July 11, 1943 - November 23, 2016
- New Lenox, Illinois
of Donald's Passing
Joliet Area Community Hospice
250 Water Stone Circle
Joliet, IL 60431
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Arrangements made by
Kurtz Memorial Chapel
Memories & CandlesPrevious
“Mr. Tolen was my geography teacher at West. He always shared his travel experiences with the class. He made geography so interesting it was my...Read More »
1 of 17 | Posted by: A friend
“I'm so sorry for your loss. Always enjoyed seeing both of you at friends for Holiday dinners.He was a Wonderful and very talented man. He will be...Read More »
2 of 17 | Posted by: Debbie Nuetzmann-Jesson - Minooka, IL
“Our condolences to the family of Don he was a really nice person we have known him around ten years we met them at the Country Charm.
3 of 17 | Posted by: Sandy Miller - Frankfort, IL
“Mr. Tolen was without a doubt, my all-time favorite teacher. Not only was he a interesting and knowledgeable teacher, he had a heart of gold! My...Read More »
4 of 17 | Posted by: Alana Kirk Studebaker - Oakley, IL
“Mr. Tolen was one of my favorite teachers at Joliet West. He was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about teaching. You could tell that teaching was...Read More »
5 of 17 | Posted by: Susan Rapinchuk - Bartlett, IL
“Don will be sorely missed. When we moved into the neighborhood Don and Phyllis were the first people to come over and welcome us. It was our first...Read More »
6 of 17 | Posted by: Ed McIntosh - New Lenox, IL
“I was saddened to see this obituary. I see I am not the only former student from Joliet West High School who remembered Mr. Tolen's Earth Science...Read More »
7 of 17 | Posted by: Karen Kupina - Homer Glen, IL
“We are sorry to learn of the passing of Donald, but grateful for his service to our nation with the Peace Corps in the Philippines.Our Condolences...Read More »
8 of 17 | Posted by: A friend
“I always think it is amazing the things you learn about a person after they pass. Having known Mr. Tolen only as the doting dad who came to his...Read More »
9 of 17 | Posted by: Cheryl Ludington - Youngstown, OH
“To the Tolen family, I was one of the numerous students who was honored to be taught by Dr Tolen in the late 1970s. He was an amazing man. Dedicated...Read More »
10 of 17 | Posted by: A friend
“Phyllis, So sad to hear of Don's passing. Don was such a talented man, just a great guy. My sympathy to you and family and friends.
11 of 17 | Posted by: Joe Huff - Acquaintance
“Tolen family:I'm so sorry to hear of Mr. Tolen's passing. I had him for freshman Earth Science at JTW back in 1977-1978. He was one of my all-time...Read More »
12 of 17 | Posted by: Gina Lewellyan (Michaelson) - IL
“Just wanted the family to know what an honor it was to have Mr.Tolen as my freshman year Earth Science teacher (1975) at Joliet West HS. I remember...Read More »
13 of 17 | Posted by: JoAnn (Nemanich) Muladore - WI
“It was a pleasure caring for Don in his last weeks as his nurse. I learned a great deal about many things while speaking to him. It was also my...Read More »
14 of 17 | Posted by: Kristin Doudt RN - Crete, IL
“I am so very sorry for your great loss. Don was a wonderful, generous, talented man who touched more lives than he ever knew. May his memory be a...Read More »
15 of 17 | Posted by: Nicole White - Chicago, IL
“Very grateful for your friendship.Love you,Karen
16 of 17 | Posted by: Karen Kietzman - Joliet, IL
“Always enjoyed seeing your woodworking projects when we visited New Lennox.
17 of 17 | Posted by: Gil and Cindi Wright - Marshall, IL
Donald A. Tolen was born in Kansas, Illinois to Grace and Raymond Tolen on July 11, 1943 and passed away on Wednesday, November 23, 2016. He was the first son of 9 children. He had 7 older sisters, Kathleen 'Toots' Rae (Nolan), Betty Boyer (Charles), Mary Roach (Robert), Marjorie 'Monkey' Hammond (Shorty), Norma Roach (Don), Helen Addis (Gale), Wanda Kerans (Bob), and one younger brother, John Tolen. He graduated from Kansas High School in 1960 and Eastern Illinois University with a bachelor's in Geography in 1965. He completed his master's thesis in Geography in 1966. As a break from school he enjoyed a year and a half in the Alaska bush working for the Federal Aviation Agency in 1962-63. He then married his college girlfriend and best friend, Phyllis McConchie on May 31, 1964. He treasured his best friend Charles Hand who was his best man. They decided to enroll in the Peace Corps in the fall of 1966 and served in Tacloban, Philippines teaching Science and English at the Leyte Normal School until 1968. With an open travel ticket they explored southeast Asia and Japan before returning home in the fall of 1968.
Their daughter, Dianna was born in 1970 and they built their first house in New Lenox where they have lived as a pillar of the evolving neighborhood for 45 years. From 1968-1983 he taught earth science and geography at Joliet West, then at Joliet Central from 1983 until 1994. In the fall of 1982 he also obtained his private pilot's license. As a family they participated in the American Host program each summer where teachers came from Europe to stay for 2-4 weeks from 1974 -1984. Once their daughter was older, they also participated in the Japanese Lobo 4-H program, hosting students for a month each summer and hosting a wonderful 'German daughter', Kerstin Hueper who lived with them from 1983-84.
Both he and Phyllis took an early retirement opportunity in 1994 and enjoyed 22 years of 'living' with travels including Irish cruises, wintering in Florida, and visiting old friends in Europe. Over the years he faithfully attended the annual conference of the Illinois Geographical Society, only missing the last year in 29 years. He shared his love of clock making with his grandson, Zack, and recently began teaching his art of woodworking to his grandson, Zane. He also enjoyed being very involved in their adoptive family, the Pawlicas and their 10 children and one grandchild.
Don was diagnosed with stomach cancer in April 2013, and tolerated chemotherapy and multiple surgeries over the next few years. He was a detailed self-taught woodworker, mushroom hunter, avid vegetable gardener, and enjoyed hiking in the woods. For many years he and Phyllis frequently visited with the staff and many friends at Country Charm Restaurant in New Lenox. He also appreciated the kindness of Joe and his staff at Aurelio's Restaurant in Frankfort where they ate pizza every Tuesday night.
He leaves his wife Phyllis, daughter Dianna Perrico, son-in-law Ralph, grandsons Zachary and Zane, sisters Wanda and Marjorie, brother John, sister-in-law Patty Foust (Bill), brother-in-law Max McConchie (Linda), and many special nieces and nephews.
A special thanks to Dr. Gamagami, Dr. Schilder, Dr. Horodysky, and the Cancer Center nurses for their care, and to the many friends and family that helped prepare and care for his garden and yard this summer. As per his wishes, his body was donated to science at the Anatomic Gift Society and there will be no wake or funeral. A celebration of his life will be held at Country Charm Restaurant in New Lenox on Dec 3 at 1:00 pm. He requests no cards or gifts, but donations can be made to the Joliet Hospice Organization. Friends may also call at the house anytime this week.