At 5 am on a Friday in mid January a New York man in his 80s tragically took his own life.
I remember reading about this but learned a few days ago that the man was the husband of Barbara Tober, who I met many years ago when we were both editors. Editor in chief at the time of phenomenally successful Brides Magazine, Barbara’s poise and elegance stood out in the heady and hectic world of magazine publishing.
I met Donald Tober only briefly when I dropped something off with Barbara at their stately Park Avenue co-op apartment. The handsome couple was getting ready to leave for one of the many events it attended throughout the year.
A Harvard law school graduate and successful businessman, Donald had taken over his father’s food distribution company, which helped make the Sweet ‘N Lo brand a household name.
Both previously married, Donald and Barbara, now 86 years old, had no children. Besides enjoying their active social and professional lives, the Tobers loved skiing, horses (they owned a horse farm), dancing, music, and entertaining. And, they were very philanthropic.
Married 48 years when her husband took his own life, Barbara talks about her shock in a moving tribute on a website she created to honor the love of her life.
A victim of mentally and physically debilitating Parkinson’s Disease, Donald had grown increasingly depressed being confined at home when Covid upturned our lives.
Without the constant stimulation of work and play, he began to talk often about ending his life, Barbara said in her online tribute. But she never dreamed Donald would do it, she added, choking back tears.
My heart goes out to Barbara for her grief. It is profoundly sad when someone says goodbye to a long-time love and best friend.
But, despite losing her intense physical, emotional and intellectual connections with Donald, Barbara’s independent spirit, world of friends and admirers, and deep interests will undoubtedly help sustain her.
Barbara is not a woman who is going to wallow in her sadness. She will bear it with her trademark poise and elegance.
While many may disdain Donald’s decision to end his life, I do not. A man who successfully maintained control over his life for nine decades (he died two months shy of his 90th birthday), he couldn’t let his disease take the reins.
“Life, if well lived, is long enough,” reportedly said the Roman statesman Seneca, who died in 65 AD.
Donald Tober knew he led a life well lived. Barbara knows it, too.