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The Department of Classics Mourns the Loss of Toni Keaney

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Published Date

April 26, 2023


Toni Keaney, the wife of our much-missed former colleague John Keaney, passed away on March 23.  The Keaneys moved to Princeton in 1959 and raised three children here while Toni worked as a nurse and teacher in the local school system.  We pay tribute to a life rich in service to others and send our condolences to her family.  A fuller obituary can be found here.

Edwina Marie (Tonelli) Keaney, a longtime Princeton resident, died peacefully March 23 at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center after a brief illness. She was 92.

Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Giuseppe Tonelli and Elda Gabbianelli, “Toni,” as everyone called her, earned a nursing degree in Toronto, and accepted a nursing position at Peter Bent Brigham hospital in Boston in the mid-1950s.

While in Boston, on a blind date, Toni met her future husband, John J. Keaney, who was then studying for a doctorate in Classics at Harvard University. They married in 1957, and in 1960, their newborn daughter Anne in tow (followed shortly thereafter by sons John and Paul), they moved to Princeton, where John accepted a position on the faculty at Princeton University. He was to embark on a distinguished 40-year career in the Classics Department, and Princeton became John and Toni’s cherished home for the duration.

Toni reveled in raising her three children, who lovingly called her “Mum” – as did her children’s friends. Such was her warm and caring nature. Though she was employed for years as a substitute nurse in the Princeton public school system and later as a favorite substitute teacher (students in her classes actually behaved!), there was little doubt the role she enjoyed most was as a loving and supportive mother.

In later years, when her beloved daughter Anne was fighting the debilitating effects of Multiple Sclerosis, Toni’s round-the-clock care for Anne and fierce advocacy on her behalf was a model of motherly love and devotion.

Toni was blessed with three grandchildren, whom she adored (the feeling was mutual), and this past October achieved the status of great-grandmother, which tickled her to no end.

Toni’s interests were marvelously diverse, and reflected her ceaseless intellectual curiosity. She enjoyed her travels to Europe, soaking up the art in the museums and cathedrals of Rome, Florence, Paris and London. She was an avid reader; ancient and European history, biographies and early Hollywood among her favorite genres. In her 80s she took adult courses at Princeton University.

Additionally, she was a superb cook, always adding to her repertoire, a needlepoint enthusiast, and looked forward to day trips with friends to New York to attend shows and the opera.

Her daily routine, particularly in her golden years, included knocking off the New York Times crossword puzzle and watching Turner Classic Movies, and perhaps a Western or two.

Toni is survived by her sons John J. Keaney and Paul M. Keaney; daughter-in-law Mary Jo Keaney; grandchildren Laura C. Huntley (Aaron), Alex K. Solaas (Shawn) and Sonya M. Keaney; and great-grandson Callahan P. Huntley.

She is predeceased by her husband John J. Keaney; daughter Anne M. Keaney; and daughter-in-law Asmira Halim.

Arrangements by Mather-Hodge Funeral Home.