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Barbara Toney Fleming

Barbara Toney Fleming passed away peacefully in Santa Barbara, California, on Monday, January 15, 2018, at the age of 92, surrounded by her children. Barbara was loving, charismatic, adventurous, and classy. She was dearly loved by her family and close friends and she will be dearly missed.

Born in Los Angeles in 1925, Barbara was a child of the Great Depression and World War II. Her ancestors were early settlers in Pennsylvania, and all four grandparents were pioneers of the West during the 1800s. Barbara herself was a third-generation Californian. Her maternal grandparents, John D. and Agnes B. Fredericks, were important figures in Los Angeles society and politics. Her grandfather was Los Angeles County district attorney from 1903-1915, ran for governor of California as the Republican candidate in 1915, and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1923. Barbara's paternal grandfather, L. C. Toney, was one of a small number of physicians in territorial Arizona. Her grandmothers were both leaders in Los Angeles civic life in the early 1900s.

Barbara’s parents, Charles and Doris Toney, who met while attending UC Berkeley, were teachers who lived a simple life, developing in Barbara and her siblings (Doris, Jim, and Virginia, aka Nene) a love for family, nature, education, and adventure. Charlie Toney was a physical education teacher and football coach at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, coaching some of the best players of the day, and Doris was active in the community, serving as commissioner of Girl Scouts for the City of Los Angeles. They were both adventuresome spirits who loved all that California had to offer, particularly the Sierra Nevada and Alamitos Bay, where they had a funky and beloved old beach house that became the gathering point for joy-filled and active family reunions from 1948 until the 1980s.

As a child Barbara was an athletic tomboy, who loved riding horses, beach combing, ocean swimming, clam digging, and archery, as well as sailing, hiking, and camping with her siblings and various Girl Scout troops. By the time she went off to college, she had grown into a beautiful, stylish, accomplished young woman (who still loved all those athletic activities). At UCLA, Barbara was elected president of her Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority chapter, served as a campus representative for J.W. Robinson, and met her future husband, Luther “Rip” Fleming (Theta Delta Chi), on a blind date, introduced by mutual friends. Rip had recently returned from the war in Europe, where he had attained the rank of army captain. His battery served in England protecting the Dover Coast, in Belgium and France, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

After earning their degrees, Barbara and Rip married in 1948 and settled for a time in a small duplex in Los Angeles. Rip took the Red Trolley cars to Security Pacific National Bank in downtown LA, where he would work as a corporate loan officer (and eventually senior vice president) for the next 35 years, making the first loan to Home Depot in its early years. (Later in life he was honored with a Home Depot Founder’s Award.) During those early years, Barbara cared for her two young boys and took them on many adventures. Eventually, in 1955, the family moved east of LA to Whittier, where they built (and Barbara worked with the architect to design) a small but comfortable ranch-style home on a lot that had been part of a subdivided avocado ranch. There they raised their two sons and two daughters (Charles, or Rip, Jr.; Burt; Allyn; and Debbie).

While in Whittier, Barbara was active in Planned Parenthood, Presbyterian Inter-community Hospital Auxiliary, the PTA, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and as a Kappa Kappa Gamma alumna. She had a beautiful garden, was a creative home decorator, loved to entertain and cook, took great pleasure in building an extensive collection of Pacific Coast and tropical seashells, and found solace in expressing herself through poetry and other writings. She and Rip enjoyed traveling, and took a memorable trip through the Panama Canal and two exciting sailing adventures in the British Virgin Islands with family. Barbara and Rip lived in the same house in Whittier for more than 45 years until they moved in 2001 to The Samarkand retirement community in Santa Barbara, where their two daughters lived with their families. They had been married for 59 years when Rip died in 2008. Barbara continued to live independently at The Samarkand for the rest of her life, enjoying time with her daughters and her sister Doris, who was her neighbor. Barbara is widely remembered at The Samarkand for her kindness, the warmth of her smile, and her many hours of volunteer service through Amazing Grays. 

Barbara loved her daughters- and sons-in-law (Ann, Wendy, Phil, and Paul) and welcomed them into the family with loving kindness. She loved, adored, and was proud of her two grandchildren, Hannah Fleming and Ryan Chiment, who were bright lights in her life.

While Barbara’s life sounds idyllic, she faced deep personal tragedy and an at-times debilitating illness with incredible courage, optimism, and grace. Barbara never let her illness define her, and what her children remember is that she was beautiful, fun, intelligent, creative, generous, positive, and funny; that she taught us to love California’s beaches, deserts, mountains, lakes, and rivers; that every summer, by herself, she piled four young children, along with tents, coolers, cots, rafts, and pet hamsters, into a country squire station wagon and took us absolutely everywhere in her beloved Golden State. By example, she taught us everything we needed to know to live good, joyous, compassionate, resilient, and productive lives.

Our family is grateful for the outstanding and compassionate medical care provided by Dr. Robert Nagy, Dr. John Kunz, Dr. Claudio Bonometti, and Cottage Hospital’s Emergency Department and SICU. We are deeply appreciative of the wonderful and supportive environment created by Barbara’s friends, and the staff, administration, and residents of The Samarkand. Services will be private. In lieu of flowers, her family would appreciate donations in Barbara’s memory to Eyes In the Sky (www.eyesinthesky.org), Santa Barbara Audubon Society’s local outreach program; the Mental Wellness Center (mentalwellnesscenter.org); or the Girl Scouts.

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