COLUMBIA — Near the end of Barbara Barton Toalson's life, Ed Rollins visited her and her family in the hospital.
"Things weren’t going well," said Rollins, associate pastor at First Baptist Church. "We were discussing the funeral, and she said she’d like me to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ at her service."
Mrs. Toalson's daughter, Susan, said, "Let’s sing it now."
Mrs. Toalson, her family and Rollins sang "Amazing Grace" together.
"It was a beautiful moment that summed up her life," Rollins said. "She was always willing to express her thanks to God through song."
On Wednesday, April 10, 2013, two days after Rollins' visit, Mrs. Toalson died at the age of 80.
Mrs. Toalson was born March 2, 1933, in Columbia to Herman and Elma Barton.
Mrs. Toalson brought her love of music into all aspects of her life. A lifelong member of the First Baptist Church, she sang in the choir her husband directed. She also taught music for Columbia Public Schools and fostered a creative, artistic household for her children.
Mrs. Toalson’s sister, Phyllis Wulff, remembers seeing signs of her sister’s future profession early on.
"She was always in teacher mode, even as a kid," Wulff said. "As soon as she could get me to sit up and pay attention to her, she was reading to me and things like that."
That dynamic between the sisters didn’t last long, however.
"Even though she was older than me, she stopped growing at 4'9", and I got all the way to 5'3"," Wulff said. "So I felt like a giant looking down at my big sister."
While Mrs. Toalson was a student at Hickman High School, she met her husband, Kent Toalson, who was a student at MU.
"He sent a friend to ask her, 'If Kent asks you out, what would you say?'" Wulff said. "And she said, 'Yes.' That was the beginning of the Toalsons."
They married in 1952.
Kent Toalson later became choir director at Hickman High School, and Mrs. Toalson taught music at several Columbia Public School campuses.
Their love of music was so strong that it led them to New York City. They moved there when Mrs. Toalson was 43 to immerse themselves in theater culture. They remained there for eight years.
John Patterson met Mrs. Toalson when he was band director at Hickman High School, where he worked alongside her husband.
"Barbara was one of those people who got along beautifully with her colleagues, the music teachers and the educators that she connected with," Patterson said. "She was a delightful lady."
Debbie Jacobs, one of Mrs. Toalson's daughters, followed her mother's example. She is now the coordinator of fine arts at Columbia Public Schools. She said her mother's lessons didn't stop at music, though.
"Mom helped us all to understand that the person and the soul are way more important than whatever decisions a person may make," Jacobs said.
Mrs. Toalson is survived by her sister, Phyllis Barton Wulff and her husband, Harry, three children, Deborah Jacobs and her partner, Anne, of Columbia, Susan Hayden and her husband, Richard, of Illinois and Ashley Stephens of California; six grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
Her husband, David Kent Toalson, died in 1984.
A visitation will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Funeral Home at 1217 Business Loop 70 W. There will be a memorial service at 2 p.m., Sunday at First Baptist Church at 1112 E. Broadway. The Rev. Carol McEntyre will officiate at the service.
In lieu of flowers, contributions are suggested to First Baptist Church in Mrs. Toalson's memory.
Condolences may be posted at memorialfuneralhomeandcemetery.com.