Toni Heather Rees, Ph.D.,was born in Cornwall, England in 1946, and died on February 6,2021 at home with loved ones in Gulfport, Florida. Toni first dated her wife Margaret in 1975 and they lived in Maine very happily together with their family of dogs and a cat before moving to Florida. Toni lived well with cancer for a number of years and died aged 74 having had a rich and interesting life. Heather was the name she was known by to her family until she left home
at 18 to attend college. Toni was the name she was known as outside the family for most of her adult life. She had a loving family that, she said, provided the stability for her to explore the world.
After college Toni spent two years teaching in Kenya with Voluntary Services Overseas (the UK version of the Peace Corps). She fulfilled a dream by returning to East Africa to celebrate her 60th birthday by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and visiting her old school and now adult former students in Kenya. Toni enjoyed working and traveling in many parts of the world. She hiked much of the Appalachian Trail in New England and loved to camp, kayak, bicycle, golf and play tennis, table tennis and Pickle-ball. Toni was delighted when her wife Margaret retired and also began to bicycle long distances so then they enthusiastically experienced many energetic hours bicycling in different states together.
Toni taught Deaf children in England and in the mid 1970's she came to the USA to "visit" Gallaudet University the only university for deaf students in the world. Toni obtained work and a scholarship to complete a PhD at Gallaudet and never returned to the UK to live. In 1985, Toni became a professor at the University of Southern Maine where she remained for 17 years. In the 1990's she completed a program for sign language interpreters at Northeastern University in Boston and became a nationally certified interpreter. Toni organized training for sign language interpreters throughout Maine and worked part-time as an interpreter until her retirement in 2004. She felt grateful to the Deaf Community for giving her such a richly rewarding career.
Retirement was a happy round of travel and physical activity with reading and playing Bridge and Canasta to keep the grey cells working. Toni felt blessed to have friends and family in the UK and US who always welcomed her. She appreciated the awareness of small every day events that Buddhist practice gave her. She enjoyed being part of the gay and lesbian community in the US. She felt her life was mostly fun, varied and delightful. She wanted to thank everyone who generously gave her such an enjoyable life.
After more than 35 years together, Toni left behind her wonderful wife Margaret, her cousins Elaine and Colin, and many loving friends. Toni's remains will be scattered in Maine, Florida and Cornwall, the Celtic land that was deeply her home. In lieu of flowers please send a tax deductible donation to support of the education of girls and a care center in Kenya near where Toni used to teach: Friends of Kakamega, PO Box 98, Freeport, Maine 04032, USA. Telephone: 802-490-0522. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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