At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Plainwell Education Foundation - Toni Berlin Memorial Scholarship
P.O. Box 463
Plainwell, MI 49080
Life Story / Obituary
Although everyone who knew Toni Berlin is saddened by her loss, they can also be comforted knowing that she touched many lives. She was one of the kindest people to walk the earth. Her positive attitude was never more present as she fought the “good fight” against her only foe, breast cancer. Fully devoted to her family, Toni reveled in the roles of being a wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend to others. Her positive outlook on life was truly contagious. Deeply loved by many, she will be forever missed.
It seems only fitting that Toni’s journey began during a decade that was as vibrant, colorful and hopeful as she was. Toni’s parents William and Mary Ellen (DeSantis) Tholl welcomed their sixth of eight children on May 9, 1958 on what had to have been a beautiful spring day in Gaylord, Michigan. Toni’s devotion to family began early while growing up with six sisters and one big brother.
In many ways Toni was a typical young girl of her generation. Her father was a tool and die maker often working two jobs to support the family, while her mother was a stay at home mom and later worked for the local school district in community education.
Toni’s strong work ethic was also channeled into her education where she excelled in both the classroom and extracurricular activities such as track, cheerleading, and band. She was a 1976 graduate of St. Mary’s High School. Following graduation she moved to Jackson, MI to attend Jackson Community College where she studied to be an X-Ray Technician. Never one to rest on her laurel’s she became interested in the new medical field of ultrasound. Over a period of several years she became certified in many areas of ultrasound. Her career spanned well over thirty years. She later spent evenings and weekends taking yet more classes and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from WMU.
While studying and working in Jackson, Toni found the time to allow a young man named Thom Berlin to show her around town. Dinner ensued and from there their love began to grow. With a desire to establish a life together, Thom found the courage to pop the question over a special lunch in Traverse City. On June 20, 1981 the couple was married in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Gaylord.
The newlyweds initially lived in Lansing where they bought their first “fixer upper” home. After five years, the couple and their young son Thomas, moved to Kalamazoo, MI to pursue employment and educational opportunities. Two years later Toni and family, now four strong with the addition of daughter Hannah, moved into a large Victorian era home in Plainwell. The couple painstakingly restored the home to past glory. They raised their children and came to love the Plainwell community over the nearly thirty years that they lived on Bridge St.
Toni’s biggest role in life was being the best mother that she could be. Thomas and Hannah were the light of Toni’s life. She always loved anytime that her family was gathered together. If there was a gathering, there was food that Toni had a hand in making. Ask anyone who has tasted her carrot cake…it was legendary.
In addition to working and caring for her family Toni kept busy pursuing many interests. She was an avid runner and downhill skier. In later years she and Thom could be seen walking the town with their beloved dogs Barkley and Winston. Toni, a track and field enthusiast, even found time to help coach the Plainwell High School track team for several years. She cherished the relationships she made with her student athletes.
Toni also loved the holidays and always decorated the house for the appropriate season. Besides working in the gardens Toni also was an accomplished seamstress, a skill that came in handy when as one of eight children and “hand me downs” was the rule of the day! Over the last ten years Toni became a member of a book club affectionately known as “The Hard Cover Girls.” She truly treasured the monthly meetings and the deepening friendships that developed with her girls. She loved all kinds of music, NPR and was a proud lifelong democrat.
In 2015 when the first diagnosis of cancer was given there was no wallowing in self-pity; instead her can do attitude propelled her forward to face the battle head on. After successfully fighting her first cancer she was diagnosed again with a reoccurrence in May of 2017. In that same month Toni and her husband left Plainwell to live in a new home on Kalamazoo’s west side. The move was both exciting but also very bittersweet.
All who knew Toni Berlin would agree that no one met her and left unchanged. She was so giving, kindhearted and generous – the kind of person who would do whatever she could for someone else. Toni’s strength and resilient spirit helped her during the time she was engaged in the fight for her life. Humble and genuine, she was truly one of a kind. Toni will never be forgotten.
Toni Marie Berlin, of Kalamazoo, passed away on Saturday, October 21, 2017. Toni’s family includes her husband of 36 years, Thom; two children: Thomas (Katie) Berlin, of Rochester; Hannah (Scott) Weber, of Kalamazoo; parents: William and Mary Ellen Tholl, of Gaylord; siblings: Jeanne Tholl, of Gaylord; Edward (Roberta) Tholl, of Gaylord; Lynne (Jeff) Smetzer, of Gaylord; and Margaret (fiancé Tim) Tholl, of Kalamazoo; and brother-in-law: Mike Dobrzelewski, of Gaylord. Toni was preceded in death by her sisters: Gerrianne Tholl, Mary Jo Tholl, and Patrica Dobrzelewski. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place on Friday, October 27th at 7 p.m. at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 421 Monroe St, Kalamazoo. The family will greet friends at the church beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday. Burial of her ashes will be at a later date at Grand Prairie Cemetery. The family will have an additional gathering at a later date in the spring of 2018. Please visit Toni’s webpage at www.lifestorynet.com where you can sign the guestbook and share a memory. Those who wish may make contributions to the Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan and/or Plainwell Education Foundation for a memorial scholarship in Toni’s name.