A Beautiful Life

On a Friday in the middle of last month, New Yorkers were shocked and saddened to read that Donald Tober had suddenly taken his own life on a very early Friday morning. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s. 

I came to know Barbara and Donald Tober in the mid-1990s attending charitable events in New York. Both naturally gracious and friendly, their marriage looked to be a remarkable partnership. 

In 2006 they hosted a birthday dinner dance celebrating Donald’s 75th at Cipriani 42nd Street. There were four or five hundred guests and a full orchestra to provide the music for a dazzling black-tie event. 

It was a celebration and the music played on and on. I could see that Donald was doing what he really liked to do with Barbara—which was to get up and dance. That night I also learned that Donald not only loved music but had a grand piano in their apartment which he played at the end of the day when he returned home from the office.

Donald and Barbara were really two dynamos (separately and together) like Fred and Ginger on that dance floor—independent in their thinking and accomplished in their lives, they were deeply involved in several philanthropic activities including as a founding member of City Meals on Wheels and the Museum of Arts and Design.

I last saw Donald earlier last year when he and Barbara were celebrating an anniversary. He had been married before. At the time he wasn’t sure the bachelor’s life would be for him. But soon after, he accidentally happened to meet Barbara. It was the partnership of a lifetime!

Donald was in the food business. His company, Sugar Foods, was started by his father in the 1940s. After graduating from Penn and Harvard Law in his late 20s he joined his father. In the 1960s they began marketing a new product—a sugar substitute called Sweet’N Low, soon found on every restaurant table everywhere. It was Donald who gave it its name and pink packaging. 

When the news came out on that Friday that he had ended his life, many wondered why he hadn’t chosen a less violent method, like pills. But Donald was a sensible man who had been blessed with a great life. Then only two months from his 90th birthday, already bearing the tortures of this terrible illness, he chose a quick and decisive solution; and quick for everyone around him. May he rest in peace. 

Barbara and Donald Tober