It happens at alumni gatherings, fundraising dinners, and even during funeral eulogies.
Servite alums tell Larry Toner stories. They talk about Toner’s intense speeches delivered in a class room or in a locker room, and how Toner challenged them to improve in all aspects of their lives. They remember Toner’s penchant for jabbing his index finger into the chest of a student, which helped emphasize Toner’s point.
If there is one person who can be considered the human cornerstone of Servite, it’s probably Toner.
Toner retired at Servite on Thursday. He has been at the all-boys Catholic high school in Anaheim for 42 years. In typical Toner style, which is to deflect any credit or honors away from himself, Toner announced his retirement on the very last day of the 2015-16 school calendar.
Toner, 76, was Servite varsity football coach from 1989-2004. He led the Friars to two CIF-Southern Section championship games. Toner also was freshman football head coach and a varsity basketball assistant coach at Servite.
Toner has led Servite’s Formation Program since its creation in 2005. He also has been the school’s choir director and has taught theology, French, Latin and Spanish there.
He said he wants to spend more time with his wife Peggy and their children and grandchildren. They have nine grandchildren.
Toner said what he will cherish most about Servite is the opportunity to contribute to the growth of the school’s students.
“Men can be pushed toward greatness,” he said. “The Servite guys were willing to be pushed. And they learned that in order to get it done, they had to get it done together.”
Former Notre Dame and NFL quarterback Steve Beuerlein, a Servite alum and currently a CBS football broadcaster, said Toner’s stature at Servite is unmatched.
“Everybody who had anything to do with Servite was exposed to Toner in some way,” Beuerlein said. “He impacted everybody in some shape or form. The school will not be the same without him, but his legacy will live on and people at Servite forever will know about Larry Toner.”
Toner has not been part of the Servite athletic department for 11 years but many still call him “Coach Toner,” including Servite president Pete Bowen.
“Coach Toner has had an enormous impact on my life and the lives of thousands of other Servite graduates,” said Bowen, who graduated from Servite in 1982. “From my first encounter with Coach Toner freshman year in 1978 to today, Coach helped shape me into the man, the father and the leader that I am today. While Coach Toner’s official role has come to a close, we expect him to continue to be a presence in our Servite community.”