Edward Alvin Toney, former vice president of Newhall Land and Farming Co. and an Agua Dulce pioneer, died on Sunday in Valencia — the same community he was instrumental in developing.
Toney, 75, died of cardiac arrest a week after gallbladder surgery, his daughter Elizabeth Olson said.
A child of the Depression years, Toney was born in Los Angeles on May 1, 1927, to Ray Alvin and Ida Rose Toney. He and his family lived amid modest means in a small house within Vasquez Rocks at the site homesteaded by his great uncle Henry Krieg, a miner, in the early 1900s.
In later years Toney built his own home, now known as the Ranger's House — hand-assembled from the remnants of old movie sets left behind at Vasquez Rocks.
A World War II Naval veteran, Toney went on to become an engineer. He worked for Newhall Land for 25 years, having joined the firm in 1962.
Marlee Lauffer, Newhall Land vice president of corporate communications, praised Toney as a man of dedication and vision, someone who played an integral role in the master-planned evolution of Valencia.
"He was very instrumental in developing the basic infrastructure of Valencia that makes everything work today," Lauffer said. "He was one of the first people, from a Newhall Land perspective, to be heavily involved in entitlements and land development — progressing and getting plans approved. His main focus was making sure the infrastructure was in place."
Development activities overseen by Toney included Valencia's basic layout, including neighborhoods, shopping centers, sewers, early road systems, flood control and landscaping, Lauffer said.
Although he grew up without money, he was a self-made man — someone who went far in life and enjoyed what he did, Olson said.
"I admire my father so much — he put himself through school, built his own career and loved his work," Olson said. "He was a company man who was proud of who he worked for — he would give his right arm for them (Newhall Land)."
An outdoor enthusiast since his youthful days in Agua Dulce, Toney enjoyed fishing, hiking, skiing and his cabin in Independence, Calif.
A loving, caring person who was "crazy about his grandkids," Toney taught his family many lessons in life, particularly the value of "being there" for loved ones, Olson said.
"He took care of my grandmother until she died — it was very hard on him," Olson said. "She refused to go to a nursing home so he did everything under the sun to take care of her and make her happy and comfortable until the end. This taught me that family is most important and we should always be there for each other."
Tom Lee, retired chief executive officer of Newhall Land, credited Toney as being very important in his own life.
"I learned as much from Ed Toney about real estate and land development as I did from anyone," Lee said. "He was tremendously knowledgeable and I was fortunate that he was willing to share some of that information. He was also the kind of guy that when it was raining hard he'd be out there at midnight doing sandbags. Ed was one terrific guy, dedicated beyond what any company could ask for."
Jo Ellen Rismanchi, a local historian and Toney family friend, said Toney came from poor beginnings but led a wealthy life.
"He built a lot and has left a lot of good feelings," she said.
An early accomplishment Toney was most proud of was negotiating a water easement that allowed Valencia to become what it is today, Rismanchi said.
Another public benefaction is the large collection of historical documents and photographs he recently gave to the SCV Historical Society, the County of Los Angeles and the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, Rismanchi said.
That donation includes copies of the original Vasquez Rocks homesteading deed and many photographs of family members and vintage Vasquez Rocks film productions — spanning from 1909 to 1970.
"He spent his own money to make reprints of all of this," Rismanchi said. "He has left behind a tremendous legacy."
Rismanchi noted that Toney and his mother sold their Vasquez Rocks property to Los Angeles County in 1967.
Toney's daughter, Christine David, expressed pride in her father's contributions to Valencia and said knowledge of those gifts is something she plans to share with her young children.
"As we drive through Valencia I will say to them, 'Hey, your grandpa once helped build all this,'" David said. "I want them to be as proud of him as I am."
In addition to daughters Olson and David, Toney is survived by his grandchildren, Jennifer, Casey, Chad, Cory, Kelly, Katie and Matt; a sister, June, and a nephew, Roger.
Services will be held today at 10 a.m., Eternal Valley Mortuary Chapel A viewing will be held prior to the services beginning at 9:30 a.m. A reception will follow at the home of Christina David, 23328 Happy Valley Drive, Newhall.