Allen Sherman Tobias
September 3, 1932 – May 2, 2023
We mourn the passing of Allen Sherman Tobias of Huntingtown, MD. He died at the ripe old age of 90, on May 2, 2023, the way he wanted to go, quickly, sitting in his chair in the sun room. He lived his life the way he wanted to the end. He is survived by his son Mark, daughter Sharon, granddaughter Jo Ann, girlfriend Norma (Scotty), Scotty’s daughter Cindy, and her daughters Nora and Grace.
He was born in the Bronx in 1932 to Louis Tobias and Helen Schneider. His mother died at childbirth. He was raised by his father and stepmother Francis Costa. He grew up in New York City and never totally lost his New York accent or New York attitude. Because his father was Jewish and his step-mother was Catholic, the same year he was bar mitzvah’d he was also confirmed in the Catholic Church. For the rest of his life he would use whatever religion suited to argue a point, but he never bought into any of it. As a youth he was a bit of a rapscallion and was sent to Pennsylvania Military Prep School. As he said, “Adults had rules and I didn’t know why they had rules. And those rules certainly didn’t apply to me.” When the internet came out, he tracked down his old classmates and organized a reunion.
Once when crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge with us he mused, “I remember driving across this bridge when I was fourteen, smoking a cigarette”.
After High School, Allen joined the Marines hoping to get into the Korean war. They gave him an IQ test and he scored the second highest in the Marines after the Commandant of the Marine Corps, so they refused to send him. Instead, as a Sergeant he became the Administrative Assistant for the commanding General of the Second Marine Division.
While in the Marines the General was moving on and asked Allen what he wanted to further his career. Allen told him, “I play poker with these guys from this new organization, Machine Records, that sounds interesting.” It turned out that Machine Records was the dawn of the computer age. “After two weeks I realized that we were doing it all wrong and revamped everything”. He became a computer programmer at a time when “There were only a dozen of us who knew anything, we had no idea how big this was going to become”. They all ended up leaving the Marines and hiring each other in the private sector. People who worked with him said he was the smartest guy and the best programmer they knew.
Through an acquaintance in the Marines, he met and married Jo Ann Livingston in 1958 in California. (Dear identity thieves, don’t think anybody uses her maiden name for our bank account password). They had two children, Mark and Sharon.
Jo Ann made a mistake on their first date when he asked her if she liked pets. She wanted him to like her so even though she didn’t care for animals, she affirmed she did, and he immediately went out and got a great dane/boxer mix called George. She was stuck with a house full of dogs and cats the rest of her life.
They lived all over the United States. Virginia, Texas, Arizona, California, and Maryland. When people hear this they think he was in the military, but he’d left the Marines in 1961. The real reason they moved all the time was he couldn’t tolerate stupid people, which was usually his boss, and he had to move on quite frequently.
Once in Minneapolis he was working on a project for Univac. He desperately needed a card punch machine, every time they changed something someone had to drive across town to punch a single card. The project had money for a card punch machine, but Univac was making so much money on them and had such a backlog, they wouldn’t send Allen a machine. So, he went out and bought an IBM. The Vice-President walked in, saw the competitor’s machine and fired him on the spot. There was such a kerfuffle that the President had to intervene and said Allen was right, but he couldn’t overrule his Vice-President. Jo Ann was crying on the bed at the news. As a Depression era child, she thought they were ruined. The next day he got a new job.
Allen was a two pack a day smoker until January 1, 1965. This way he could always tell everyone how long it had been since his last cigarette (58 years, 4 months, 2 days). He didn’t quit smoking for health reasons, he quit because, “It’s a filthy habit”.
In the 1970’s he went back to night school full time and completed his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Maryland. All while working full time and raising teenagers. In the late 1970’s he was running the computers for the Social Security data center in Salinas, California.
He liked to go to Broadway plays as well as travel with Jo Ann and see the world. They travelled extensively in Europe. But like most Americans it wasn’t what you saw in a day that counted, it was how many miles you put in that counted.
In 1987 Jo Ann was tragically killed in an automobile accident. A few years later Allen was introduced to Norma “Scotty” Bartus by some shared friends, the Styles, and he began a new life with her. Scotty worked at The Teamster’s Union and he greatly enjoyed their events.
He continued working off and on and in 1999 he got paid better than anytime in his life to clean up all the COBOL code with the Y2K bugs he and his friends had written.
Allen and Scotty both enjoyed travelling and seeing the world. They visited the South Pacific, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, China (“On a scale of 10 the Great Wall is a 25”, he said), Egypt, and of course Scotland. Scotty’s family is still talking about a famous drive he made to get back to a restaurant in Scotland before it closed, putting all in peril.
When Scotty’s daughter Cindy had children he gladly helped with babysitting duties and was called ‘Grandpa Al’ by Scotty’s granddaughters Nora and Grace. He also enjoyed being a long-distance grandfather to his granddaughter Jo Ann (named after his late wife) from Sharon.
Allen was known for his quick wit and always enjoyed a party with friends. Everyone has stories of how funny he was. His main interest was politics. He was a voracious consumer of news, he got the Washington Post delivered to the house every day. He was politically aware long before it was popular, and always voted for the Democrats with the exception of Jimmy Carter as he didn’t trust religious people.
A few years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Actually, that’s not true, he refused to be diagnosed for many years as “There’s nothing you can do”. Still, he didn’t allow this to impact his life any more than necessary. He did the grocery shopping and ran errands, which may sound dangerous, but he was paying a lot more attention than all the texters out there. This refusal to accept changing his life probably extended it dramatically.
When his son Mark came out in April and informed him that he needed to move out to Maryland because Allen shouldn’t be driving and wasn’t dealing properly with physical therapy, he responded, “How about this? Nothing changes. They’ve kept me in prison for the last three years and you’re not going to keep me in prison”. Mark wouldn’t be swayed and started planning to move. A week later Allen checked out. Well played dad, well played. You did it your way.
A Celebration of Life will be held on June 3 in MD and June 10 in California. Details to follow.
Feel free to make a donation to a charity in his name or send flowers to:
795 Monarch Ln.
Huntingtown, MD 20639