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George Tonner

October 8, 1939 ~ May 21, 2020 (age 80)


George Tonner, beloved by all who had the pleasure of meeting him in his 80 years, passed away on May 21, 2020, in Montclair, New Jersey. He was a kind and giving soul, always giving to those in need and sharing with those he cared for. He loved people and rarely left folks without a smile, a chuckle, and a shake of their head.  He will be missed by many.

He is survived by his daughter Shelley Tonner and her partner, Brett Starr, his son Sean Tonner as well as his loving sisters Betty Tonner, Charlotte Harris, and Mary Stanton, who affectionately call George “Sonny,” the nickname his mother gave him as a child and which George cherished.

His grandchildren, Brandon Tonner-Connolly and Shawna Tonner will always treasure their memories of growing up with him as a pillar of support and encouragement. He loved his nieces Jennifer Harris and Mary Beth Dimone and his nephews Frank Harris and Christopher Stanton.

He will also be missed by his cat, “The Scared,” who loved to find ways to sleep on his hat and jacket to the delight and consternation of George.

Despite not taking his high school Latin classes seriously as a boy, much to the chagrin of the nuns at St. Cecilia’s, George was a hard worker his entire life. He started his working life as a pin boy at a bowling alley at the age of 11 and proceeded to a long career in management with Engelhard Industries. As an avid and accomplished bowler, George spent many joyful years as a part-time bartender and a resident mentor at the Bowl-O-Drome. A modest man, he always had to be coaxed into telling the story of how he once bowled a 290 and came within inches of a perfect game. His claim to have been the first bowler to wear two different bowling shoes habitually, however, has yet to be verified.

He enjoyed spending time on both sides of the bar at Graham’s, his neighborhood tavern, and was a stalwart friend and source of support to many there.

George was also an enthusiastic golf fan. Whether watching on TV, duffing it on the course or attending PGA Tour events, he loved everything about the game.

He also loved taking long walks and frequently strolled the length of Kearny on the main avenue, waving to the many friends who would shout a warm greeting to him from a hastily opened storefront door or through a rolled-down car window. In his later years, George treasured having breakfast every morning with the morning crowd and the kind owners of The Kearny Coffee Shop.

He is predeceased by his wife of 50 years, Barbara Tonner, and his mother and father, Elizabeth (nee Murdoch) and George Tonner.

Many of his friends will have greeted him in heaven, including his driving and lunch buddy for years, Frank Harris. For those who remain, please pray for his peaceful rest. Funeral arrangements are private.

A memorial service to celebrate George’s life will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to St Jude, who George reverently called “my man.”

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of George Tonner, please visit our floral store.


Private Services


St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
501 St. Jude Place, Memphis TN 38105
Tel: 1-800-805-5856

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