“There are only a handful of people who we come across in our lives who possess just the right amount of positive attributes and qualities which set them apart from the rest of us. Aggie was one of those individuals,” Canton Athletic Director Bill Porter said Tuesday morning, reflecting on the life of one of Canton Central’s brightest lights.
Aggie Toth passed away Monday, leaving a hole not only in the lives of her family and friends, but also in the lives of her students, athletes, and the Canton community as a whole.
For more than 20 years, Toth injected a positive and magnetic energy into any room she entered in her time as a teaching assistant at Canton Central School. On top of the atmosphere she worked to create each day as a teacher, Toth also had a profound impact on the students she coached both on the track and in the swimming pool.
Varsity Swimming Coach Meg McGovern said Tuesday she has seen a tremendous outpouring of support from former Golden Bear swimmers spanning many years, all of whom share their condolences and their stories of their beloved coach. In her words, McGovern expressed that Toth’s impact on the swimming program cannot be overstated.
“Coach Toth has been an integral part of the Canton swim team’s success over the past two decades,” McGovern said. “The success of an athletic program is tied to the feeder programs and Tothie had established a great one. She was adept at teaching the fundamentals of swimming and worked with girls of all abilities to prepare them for the varsity team. Not only did Coach Toth train the girls, but she instilled in them a true love for the sport of swimming. She made practice fun. She made competing fun. She had the uncanny ability to bring joy and laughter to any situation. And the varsity team, including me, depended on her for this. Whether it was a hard practice, a cramp, a breathing problem, Tothie was there to make everything right.”
McGovern also highlighted Toth’s efforts in her role as a coach that had nothing to do in particular with the sport. She often took care of behind-the-scenes duties by decorating bulletin boards, washing towels, sewing ripped block covers, fixing lap counters, and providing honey and apples for nourishment.
Porter said Toth’s coaching prowess shone through in her ability to make something her own while incorporating the wisdom of her peers and mentors.
“Her coaching style was a unique blend of her own philosophy coupled with ideas from those whom she respected. Certainly John Casserly, Dave Bradman and Meg McGovern come to mind as people she leaned on regularly,” Porter said. “Aggie had a kid-centered approach which looked to be laid back at first glance. In hindsight, she was nurturing athletes and more importantly, she was nurturing young people to become the best which they could become. Athletics was a mechanism to her to foster fantastic people. She was very good at it.”
Countless athletes Monday night and Tuesday morning expressed their sorrow in learning of the passing of someone who all of them said made a lasting impact on them.
“She without a doubt was instrumental in my love of swimming and the team, and her energy and laughter always pushed me (and all of us) to give it our all with a smile on our face,” said former Golden Bear swimmer Bailey Phelps. “She’ll certainly be missed, especially by the Canton Swimming program.”
While many remember Aggie Toth, often called “Tothie,” as a fun-loving inspiration, Porter gives much credit to her as a leader of athletes in her roles with the teams she worked with while also highlighting her positive spirit during competition.
“The success of our track and field and swim programs is largely due to the foundation which she laid for both our athletes and coaches,” Porter said. “Tothy as she was affectionately referred to by them, made an enormous impact on the entire Canton community. She instilled the values of empathy, compassion, tolerance, honesty and integrity in them. She also was a fiery competitor who emphasized hard work and effort. Aggie would often be seen red-faced and yelling at an event. She was the largest cheerleader of her athletes when their feet hit the track or their heads hit the water!”
Golden Bear swimming alumna Alisha Rexford credited Toth for instilling in her a love for the sport from a young age, a love that has continued on well past her high school years.
“I was probably only 10-12yrs old when I first met coach and began my journey swimming competitively. But those are our most formative years and she was such an incredible role model and mentor during them. To be taught to swim out of love instead of competition or drive for success or winning was the greatest gift. One I embraced while joining the swim team in high school and again at University,” Rexford said.
“Today 10+ years later, swimming is still a meditation in movement and my first love. My greatest thanks and blessings to her for that love and the confidence to fly in the pool and outside of it. ♥️ RIP Coach Tothie- You will be missed and are loved more than you could have ever dreamed.”
Hailey Hodge, also a Canton swimming alumna, spoke of the bond Toth was able to so easily sew between athletes.
“Tothy had an effortless way of bringing together people of all backgrounds and skill levels and uniting them with common ideas,” Hodge said. “She had inside jokes with everyone and was special to each swimmer in a different way.”
Away from the pool and the track, Toth will be remembered as a skilled educator who was adored by staff and students alike. Kate Cruikshank, now the director of special programs at Tupper Lake Central School, reflected upon the time she spent as colleagues with Toth at Canton Central School.
“Aggie set the bar high for all other teaching assistants I ever worked with in my classroom! We loved her as a colleague and the kids loved her, too,” Cruikshank said in a Facebook post. “I have so many fun stories I could tell!! We both had a sense of adventure and I am convinced that’s why we hit it off from the start!!I will always remember her smile, laid back style, my nickname (‘Cookie’) and her love of the outdoors and her family! Oh and the Equinox Egg Experiment she did every year! And how she got a kick out of it when our then young Daniel referred to her as ‘the lady with the spaghetti hair’! Thanks for the memories and friendship, Ag!!”
Younger educators who were privileged enough to work with Toth in their early years in teaching describe her as a role model.
“Tothie was a major influence on me,” said Eric Mende, who worked with Toth as an aid in the high school for a year, and who has continued on as an educator since leaving Canton. “She was excellent at her job.”
Toth made a profound impact on the Canton Central School family for more than two decades, selflessly performing any necessary task to improve the experience of those she cared for. Much of her work goes unrecognized except by those who feel the direct impact of her kindness, and that’s just how she liked it.
“Aggie Toth was an unassuming three season coach for over 20 years and was therefore as much of a fixture in our program as anyone can be,” Porter said of his former colleague and friend. “Many people will never understand her impact on young people as she was never one to relish in personal accolades. We will miss her unique impact on our entire community, her honey, and her smile. “
Calling hours for Aggie Toth will be held on Friday, September 25, 2020 from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the O’Leary Funeral Home with an open mic for sharing stories from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm. More information can be found in her obituary by clicking here.