The Tockstein Family


If you attended McKinley at any time between the years of 1942 and 1967, chances are you had a class with, or at least knew, one or more of the Tocksteins (Standing, left to right, Don, Bill, Otto, George. Seated, Mel, Carol, Ray). For those of you who might be interested in knowing what happened to each of them since their high school years, we have provided the following paragraphs.

As the material was gathered for this article, we wanted to give more details concerning each sibling's character, their wives/husbands, their children's history and grandchildren. Life is so much more than highlights and facts. As a family, the Tockstein family shared their joys and achievements but also their sorrows and struggles. However, in a large family like the Tockstein family, there are just a whole lot more of them.

 

In today’s modern society, a couple with three or four children might be described as a “large” family. However, to George and Eleanor Tockstein, that description might have seemed somewhat understated. This McKinley family, consisting of nine boys and two girls, was raised in the Soulard area at 10th and Allen Streets and most of them attended Lafayette Elementary School and then received their high school education at McKinley. Not all of them graduated from McKinley, due mostly to circumstances beyond their control, but they definitely represented one of the largest contingents from the same family to share in the McKinley experience.

Since we were at war in the early 1940’s, the two oldest Tockstein sons – George and Robert – only attended high school for a year or two before leaving early to fulfill their patriotic duty by enlisting in the United States military to serve their country, as did many other young men at that time. From left to right, Don, Glen, Ray, Carol, Mel.
George Tockstein only attended McKinley for one year until he was forced to leave school and get a job to help supplement the income of his large family. He worked only briefly until he joined the Navy in 1943 and served on the light cruiser USS Reno in the Pacific Theater until 1946, where he survived an attack on his ship by a kamikaze pilot. His ship was torpedoed and put out of commission late in the conflict. After the war ended, George returned to St. Louis and worked for more than 50 years as a tool and die maker for Vitro Products. The Tockstein family is still mourning George’s sudden death from colon cancer in August of 2003 at the age of 78.
Robert (Bob) Tockstein also left McKinley to enlist in the US Marines. Bob enjoyed the military life so much he decided to make a career of it and retired after serving 20+ years. His tours of duty included combat in Iwo Jima and Korea as well as many stateside locations. After retiring from the Marines, Bob returned to the St. Louis area with his wife, son and four daughters. Bob retired from IGA Grocers and passed away from a heart attack in 1993 at the age of 66.

Otto Tockstein never attended McKinley, but chose Hadley Technical School instead since his mechanical aptitude skills were exceptional. He felt that a technical school was the best place to develop those skills. However, he also left high school without graduating to enlist in the US Marines where he served for 10 years (including Korea). He then transferred to the Air Force, where he served most notably for 6 years at Andrews Air Force Base, as chief of the engine crew that maintained and serviced Air Force One for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. After retirement from the military, Otto settled in St. Charles, with his wife and three daughters, and was employed by Ozark/TWA Airlines until his retirement in 1991. Otto presently keeps himself busy by volunteering for the Commemorative Air Force.

William (Bill) Tockstein attended McKinley and graduated in 1950. Bill also served in Korea as a member of the US Marines. After the Marines, Bill decided to become a St. Louis police officer for a few years, but was later employed by Union Electric where he worked in high-voltage underground operations until his retirement in 1992. Bill was married and has two sons and one daughter. Standing, George, Mel, Don, Bill. Seated, Otto, Carol, Sue, Ray.
Donald (Don) Tockstein, the fifth son of George and Eleanor, graduated from McKinley in 1953. Don also served in the US Marines and graduated from St. Louis University in 1962 with a degree in Accounting. Don eventually was employed by Pet, Inc. and worked his way up the corporate ladder to become Vice President-Controller for Pet’s Frozen Foods Division prior to his retirement in 1989. Don married another McKinley alumnus, Doris Komorech ’56 and they have one son.

Glennon (Glen) Tockstein graduated from McKinley in 1955. Glen was a very good student and particularly excelled in the areas of science and medicine. Following his high school graduation, Glen attended the University of Missouri-Rolla and then St. Louis University. Glen was in medical school when he was diagnosed with cancer. Glen knew he could not complete the necessary schooling to become a doctor, so he changed directions and obtained a PhD. in Biochemistry. Over the next twenty-three years, Glen received numerous treatments in attempts to keep his cancer in remission. Unfortunately, Glen’s life was cut all too short when he finally succumbed to cancer in 1987 at the age of 50. Glen was married and had one daughter.

Raymond (Ray) Tockstein graduated from McKinley in 1959. Ray also served in the US Marines (if you were counting, this means six brothers in the Marine Corp). After leaving the Marines, Ray worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad. In January 1961, he joined the St. Louis Fire Department. Ray was ‘Firefighter of The Year’ in 1982. During the 30 years of firefighting, Ray rescued 10 people and had two Meritorious Awards and many Letters of Commendations for outstanding performance. He earned an Associate Degree from Forest Park Community College. Ray is married and has three daughters. He is presently working for Enterprise Leasing.

Carol (Tockstein) Gillam was the first girl after seven boys and was also a part of the McKinley experience. Carol eloped while a senior at McKinley and did not graduate with her class but later obtained a GED. She worked for the Highway Patrol, a printing company, a manufacturing company and a CPA firm. Carol has recently retired from Central Presbyterian Church in the Christian Education Division. Carol is married to Carl and has two sons and three daughters.

Melvin (Mel) Tockstein had the distinction of being the brother born between the only two girls in the Tockstein family. Mel graduated from McKinley in 1961 and immediately enlisted in the US Air Force where he served 3 years in Germany. After being discharged and returning home, Mel received an Electrical Engineering degree in 1969 from the University of Missouri-Rolla. After a brief stint at Southwestern Bell, Mel left St. Louis in 1973 to take a job with Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. He worked there for 30 years as a development and design engineer until his retirement last summer. Mel married a McKinley classmate, Margaret Disbennett ’61. He and Marge, who also retired from Ford this year, have one son and two daughters.

Suzanne (Sue Tockstein) Tavares, the youngest daughter, who graduated from McKinley in 1964. After living in Cincinnati, Kansas City, Clarksdale (MS) and again in St. Louis, she now resides in Mission Viejo, California and is employed as the Meeting Planner for the American College of Trial Lawyers, an honorary association of the best trial lawyers in the United States, Canada and Europe. Through pleasure and work, she has traveled extensively. Sue is married to Fred Tavares and they have two children (one son and one daughter).

Kenneth (Kenny) Tockstein, the youngest member of the Tocksteins graduated from McKinley in 1967 and worked as a draftsman. Unfortunately, the baby of the family was diagnosed with leukemia at the young age of 23 in 1972. He received numerous treatments over the next four years in an attempt to cure his disease, including a bone marrow transplant, but ultimately lost his battle with leukemia and passed away in 1976 at the age of 27.

After World War-II, our little four-room home (with no indoor bathroom) became very crowded.
While Dad worked at the Post Office in the evenings, Mom would gather all the kids around the table (with the older ones helping the younger ones), and we remember her frequently saying, “The only way to advance is through education.” Wise words from a caring McKinley mom.

In addition to the core values and guiding principles learned from their parents, most children are taught, nurtured and/or inspired by one or more of their teachers throughout their young lives. It is a tribute to the educational community of McKinley that helped all the Tockstein siblings become the responsible, moral, hardworking adults they were and are today.

Carol (Tockstein) Gillam '58
ccgillam@charter.net
Marge (Disbennett) Tockstein '61
redbird64@comcast.net