Patricia “Joan” Tolkin, 83, of Manhattan, NYC passed away rather unexpectedly early in the
morning of Saturday, December 3.
Joan was born on January 26, 1939 in Manhattan to Olga and Mike Shegryn and lived nearly
her entire life there. She leaves behind a legacy richer and fuller than she could have ever
imagined back when she was a child on New York's Lower East Side, living in a tenement
apartment and playing stoop-ball and stick ball in the streets. New York is inseparable from who
she was - though she would never miss an opportunity to complain about the noise, the grit, or
the hustle. Deep down, we know she loved all of it!
No one was considered a stranger to Joan, and to say that she will be missed is an
understatement. Growing up in the melting pot of her unique New York neighborhood, with all its
eccentricities, she could never have imagined what lay in store for her. These words don't come
close enough to covering her life; however, they attempt to illustrate how interesting and
complete her life’s experience was.
Her father escaped the Ukraine as a 14 year old by lying about his age, joining the Austrian
army in WWI and after having survived being a POW in Italy, he settled in NYC to become a
shoe maker. (Joan always said she didn't have much growing up, but she had the BEST shoes!)
Her mother's family left the Ukraine after WWI and settled in Harlem, NYC before Olga met her
future husband in 1936. Joan grew up as the only girl among 3 brothers, which prepared her
well for her future as a mother. After spending two years at Baruch College in Manhattan, Joan
began working at Metropolitan Life.
Joan was married to her husband Stas in 1960 in Manhattan. They met in what was then
Alphabet City in the mid 1950s, and their first date was attending a picnic. After Stas finished
college at the University of Miami and did his service in the Air Force Reserve, they tied the knot
and moved to Jackson Heights, Queens, where they spent their early years before returning
back to their old stomping grounds of Manhattan.
Joan managed to raise 4 very active boys in a 3 bedroom apartment in Stuyvesant Town, and
she and Stas put each of them through Xavier High School in NYC and then to University,
preparing them well to achieve successful careers and lives. As her sons grew up, she returned
to work, this time in the corporate world at a time when many women did not - most notably
working for Jim Henson in the 1980s, which produced many interesting tales among the
Joan was funny without even knowing she was funny - which is what made it so great. When
she saw Sean Lennon on the street she tapped him on the shoulder just to say "It's such a
shame what happened to your father. I'm so sorry. My sons all said what a nice man he was."
By the time the light changed they were practically best friends. She's had encounters with Mel
Brooks and crashed a children's birthday party at Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon's house -
only to be given a personal tour and lunch. Like I said, she never met a stranger and didn't care
if you were a movie star or sitting next to her on the bus, you would do just fine as a fellow New
Yorker to talk to.
Among Joan’s enjoyments was cooking, as she constantly accumulated and tried new recipes
and perfecting the old family favorites. She never caught up with all the great dishes that were
lined up, awaiting preparation, but the exercise always kept her active. She was an avid jogger
up through middle age and tried to exercise as much as possible. In her older age, she enjoyed
watching The Antiques Road Show, Finding Your Roots, and NY Red Bulls Soccer Matches.
That little girl born in tenement housing left a legacy of four children and 7 grandchildren and a
lifetime of memories and stories for each of them. She joins her parents, husband and older
brother Walter through the Gates of Heaven and is survived by her brothers Peter and Danny,
her sons Douglas, Christopher (wife Sara), Michael, Matthew (wife Mimi) and her grandchildren,
who meant the world to her, Christopher, John Michael, Peter, Alice, Ginger, Maria, and Helen.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Patricia’s name to Xavier High School NY.