John Eugene O’Toole

John Eugene O’Toole

August 23, 1928 - April 09, 2021

John Eugene O’Toole

August 23, 1928 - April 09, 2021


John Eugene O’Toole

John Eugene O’Toole was born at home in 1928 in Louisburgh, County Mayo, Ireland, to Austin and Bridget O’Toole. He was the eldest of 7 children. Eugene received his primary education at the boys’ school in Louisburgh and secondary education at St. Jarlath’s boarding school in Tuam, where he was sent at the age of 12. Gene would recount many stories from his time there, which he described as spartan and challenging, particularly under the conditions of World War II.

Upon completion of his years at St. Jarlath’s, he made a commitment to study for the priesthood in the diocese of Los Angeles, California. He began his studies in Dublin at All Hallows Seminary and then transferred to St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California. After five years of study, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 22, 1951. He was assigned to many parishes and began his high school teaching career at St. Monica’s, the diocesan minor seminary, and Pius X High School. During this time, he completed Masters degrees in Classical studies and Education. In 1969, Gene made the decision to leave the active ministry and became an educator at Tustin High School, where he worked as teacher, counselor, and assistant principal until 1992. An avid reader, learner, and gifted teacher with a keen intellect, he maintained friendships with former students throughout his life.

Gene married his wife, Joan, in 1970. God blessed them with 50 years of marriage.

For the rest of his life, his deep faith and sense of vocation found expression in his work at St. John Neumann Parish in Irvine, California, to which he belonged since its inception in 1978. Gene founded and directed the Religious Education program, many Bible study groups, and the RCIA program there, bringing many more parishioners into the fold. He found tremendous value and satisfaction in teaching and dialogue around faith, including outreach through a number of local ecumenical and interfaith programs, notably co-founding a book study group with St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine.

Gene passed away in April after a lengthy battle with cancer. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son (John), daughter (Elizabeth), 2 granddaughters (Charlotte and Fiona), three siblings (Colm, Kathleen and William), and many nieces and nephews.

Vigil Service

  • Date & Time: May 7, 2021 (7:00 PM)
  • Venue: St. John Neumann Catholic Church
  • Location: 5101 Alton Parkway Irvine, CA 92604 - (Get Directions)

Memorial Service

  • Date & Time: May 8, 2021 (10:00 AM)
  • Venue: St. John Neumann Catholic Church
  • Location: 5101 Alton Parkway Irvine, CA 92604 - (Get Directions)

Graveside Service

  • Date & Time: May 8, 2021 (11:30 AM)
  • Venue: Holy Sepulcher Catholic Cemetery
  • Location: 7845 Santiago Canyon Orange, CA 92869 - (Get Directions)
  • Phone Number: (714) 532-6551

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36 responses to John Eugene O’Toole

  1. Bill Morrow says:

    I first encountered Gene in the fall of 1963 when he walked into the classroom as my sophomore religion teacher at Queen of Angels minor seminary. From him I learned faith and reason were not incompatible. He was my counselor junior year and taught Latin (Vergil) senior year instilling a lasting appreciation of Roman and Greek mythology.

    Gene was always well prepared and made sure his students were.

    Gene left his priestly ministry within a couple of year of my leaving the seminary. I and a number of fellow classmates bonded with Gene discovering a sense of humor unrevealed to us during our classroom years. We came to love our somewhat regular gatherings over a meal.

    Gene is the godfather of one of my sons. I am happy that each of my three children got to know Gene and Joan.

    I have been blessed to know Joan these past 50 years. Her company enriched our gatherings. I think she particularly enjoyed the tales we told of Gene.

    Although I will always miss Gene, I take joy in living a life he has so enriched!

  2. As a senior transfer student from the East Coast to St. Monica’s High School in Santa Monica, CA, I was incredibly blessed to find myself in Eugene’s theology class in Apologetics. It was by far the best theology course I have ever taken ” far better than any taken in college. We even used the text used in the seminary in Ireland, “Natural, Christian, and Catholic Apologetics,” and he was a gifted and masterful instructor! He gave me an appreciation of Catholicism from an intellectual perspective that I treasure. This experience inspired me to continually learn more about my Faith, ultimately leading me to find joy in the Gospel. Later in life I remember a discussion with him about life and about our Faith, and I often think on his final comment: “Mary, it’s all a gift.” Thank you, Eugene.

  3. Gene was a wonderful friend and a great mentor.

    Warren and I were very blessed to be able to participate in Bible study groups with Gene for many years. We were in awe of his intellect and wisdom. He impressed us with his objective and open-minded analysis supported by his broad knowledge and understanding of the Bible. He always encouraged us to “wrestle” with the truth and thus to build up our own faith. With a big smile on his face, he often challenged us not to be complacent with our faith by telling us not to be: crazy Catholics, lazy Catholics, or hazy Catholics. He prompted us to deepen our relationship with our Lord by reflecting on how Jesus has touched each of us in our lives. He often asked us, “Who Jesus is to you, a teacher or a healer?” Gene helped us grow so much in our faith, in our approach to the Bible, and in living our lives as true Christians. We continue to benefit greatly from his Socratic teaching and his loving friendship. He and Joan opened their home to us for further prayers and Bible study. We immersed ourselves in the aroma of the freshly brewed coffee, the fragrance of Gene’s wisdom, and the bouquet of Gene and Joan’s generous hospitality.

    Gene liked to sing. He loved “Amazing Grace” Yes, the Lord is amazingly wonderful by sending Gene into our lives. Gene also liked the hymn, “Shall we Gather at the River?” by Robert Lowry. We hope that one day we will all gather with him at the beautiful river and sing this hymn with him loud and joyfully.

    Rest in peace, Gene. You are forever in our hearts.

    Rosa and Warren

  4. I was baptized on Easter 1998 at St. John Neumann and Gene was my sponsor.

    Gene, congratulations on a well lived life.

    You did your part, may you rest in peace my friend.

    To Joan and family, may God give you the strength to deal with your loss.

    My deepest condolences.

    Ricardo Ignacio

  5. I first met Gene as a sophomore at Our Lady Queen of Angels Seminary in 1963. I was in his challenging religion course on Apologetics. In my senior year, he taught a year-long course on the Aeneid of Vergil. We read about one-third of this epic in Latin (more than I read in an upper division Latin seminar at UC Irvine four years later). We translated every line we studied with close attention to grammatical and rhetorical conventions, scanned the lines in the dactylic hexameter, and analyzed them in the context of the Iliad and the Odyssey. A general knowledge of mythology was indispensable. At first, I felt that the class was a waste of time, but I gradually developed a deep love for Latin literature and literature in general. This high school Aeneid course was the finest course in my long education of undergraduate college, graduate school, law school, and in my retirement, more study of Latin at the University of Maryland.

    My life would certainly have been different had I not met Gene. He was my mentor as I came to realize that the priesthood was not for me. Little did either of us know that we would one day share stories of the joys of having children and grandchildren.

    There is one line in the Aeneid that Gene spent a lot of time discussing. When Aeneas arrived at the walls of Troy, he saw a mural depicting the suffering of the Trojans as Troy was destroyed. He wept and said, “Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.” Robert Fagles translates this line beautifully: “The world is a world of tears and the burdens of mortality touch the heart.”

    Gene taught us how to be human. He taught us by word and example how to accept others and to understand that we all bear our own crosses. In the years since I first encountered this kind, wise man, I have always tried to live up to the high standards he set for his students. He was tough, and we had to reach beyond our grasp. I will never stop reaching. Thank you, Gene.

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