Meet Buster Toner
by: Kings Park Notebook – July 06, 2012
Charles Toner, better known in these parts as “Buster,” has been named the Grand Marshal of the 2013 Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Born in Kings Park in 1934, Buster was the youngest of three children.
His mother, who emigrated from Ireland at age nineteen, came to the United States through Boston, where she worked as a governess for a year or two before hearing about a hospital in Kings Park hiring Irish immigrants. So she made the move, finding work as an aide at the Kings Park Psychiatric Center.
Buster was in the first kindergarten class in Kings Park in 1939. His father died when he was five years old.
Buster recalls his first job, going with a neighbor to the strawberry fields in Commack, when he was just nine years old. He earned $2.25 for the day. When he got home, he promptly gave his wages to his mom who took it, looked at him, gave him 25 cents back and said, “Buster, you’re a good boy.”
That was the first time Buster worked, and he never stopped.
During high school Buster held down many jobs, but it was bait digging that paid the most. He remembers the original school house on Church Street and recalls fondly its principal, Ralph J. Osgood. Buster missed quite a bit of school in order to get down to the Bluff to dig. Principal Osgood called him into his office one day, telling him he had to make up the time. Buster remembers asking the principal, “Can I start tomorrow, there is a tide tonight.” Osgood agreed. Buster would stay after school to make up the time and Osgood would often shoot baskets with him.
Buster graduated from Kings Park High School in 1952. After graduation, Buster got a job at the hospital, on the night shift, in the diabetic ward. During the day, he learned the carpentry trade and soon after went to work for a construction company, doing mason work, and eventually opening his own mason business. All the while, Buster worked nights at the hospital.
He married in 1955 and raised four children in town. He eventually got a job in the Smithtown Parks Department as a foreman in the 1970s and retired as director in 1990. His fondest memories of his time in the parks department remain the great group of guys he worked with. “Our goal was to make it the finest parks department we could,” he states. “I loved being able to help people.”
State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick, a teenager in those days, recalls the “all for one” spirit during those years. He worked for Buster in the parks department and says “Buster gave me the opportunity to take one truck and volunteer in Hauppauge in an environmental program. We would comb Hauppauge, picking up trash before it was fashionable to do so.”
About Buster being named 2013 Grand Marshal, Fitzpatrick continues, “This honor is well deserved. He is one of those individuals who made Kings Park the great place to live it is now.”
Councilman Ed Wehrheim also worked for Buster, noting that “it is a wonderful choice. Buster is proud of his Irish heritage and I don’t know anyone who has done so much for Smithtown.”
Since retirement, Buster has been keeping busy. He is extremely proud of the beautiful park in Nesconset named after him – the Charles P. Toner Park.
He has also been doing volunteer work with the Stony Brook Cancer Center. As a cancer survivor, Buster gets the opportunity to speak with patients undergoing treatment. He tells them, “Life will change, you will adjust, but it’s not the end, you’re going to be fine.”
Buster is very proud to be next year’s Grand Marshal, “It means a lot to me.”
The 3rd annual parade will take place on March 2nd. Visit the parade website or Facebook page for more information.