In Loving Memory of

Esstoya Willis “Toy” Whitley


Toy Whitley, 95, gifted educator, devoted matriarch, and friend to all, died Saturday, May 2, 2015 of natural causes at Terrace Health & Rehabilitation Center in Gainesville, Fl. She was born January 23, 1920 in Mars Hill, NC to the late Claude Willis and Cordelia Davis. Her passion for childhood reading education propelled her career to international recognition. A towering presence in the classroom, she guided hundreds of young minds across several generations at the University of Florida’s former P.K. Yonge Laboratory School. She had an intense focus for teaching students one-on-one. During her tenure she pioneered the Adopt-A-Grandparent program, in which first and second-graders visited and developed relationships with elderly residents in healthcare facilities. The highly successful program was eventually adopted by the Inter-Generational Conference in Washington, DC from which she received an award.

Raised in a rural mountain community, Toy was the oldest of six children and the first from her family to seek higher education and a life “off the farm.” That desire took her on a lifelong adventure in education and she eventually accepted an offer from UF in 1958, where she taught school until her retirement in 1984. She was a faithful member of First Baptist Church of Gainesville, as well as the Gainesville Woman’s Club.

She was preceded in death by her husband Edward J. Whitley and son Edward J. Whitley Jr. She is survived by sister Geneva Faw (Wiley), son William Trantham Whitley (Ruth), granddaughter Susan Whitley Koch (Stephen) and great granddaughter Samantha Whitley Koch.

Funeral services will be conducted Friday, May 8, 2015 at Forest Meadows Funeral Home in Gainesville at 11:00am, followed by burial at Forest Meadows Cemetery. Visitation will be Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Forest Meadows Funeral Home at 6:00pm. All are welcome to attend and share with the family.

Online Condolences

2 Responses

  1. Steven Chance Gornto at · Reply

    Toy was the most amazing teacher I ever had. Her influence on me is forever. May the world of education be transformed by her students who became educators. We were all blessed by her love and devotion.

  2. Cornelia Whitley at · Reply

    Love you the most.

Leave a Reply

Please feel free to sign the Guest Register and forward your condolences to friends and family members who have suffered a loss. Please enter your words of remembrance in the space provided. You may choose to leave your message online or click the link below to send a private message to the family. Please note that Forest Meadows Funeral Home will review all messages before they are published on the world-wide web or forwarded to family members. Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have. Thank-you.

To protect your privacy, Forest Meadows Funeral Home will not share your eMail address on the web. We offer you the option of providing it to us solely as a way to contact you. We do not share your eMail with third parties without your express written consent.

    Send a Private Condolence

    Your Name (required):

    Your Email (required)

    Your City

    Your State


    Your Message

    Send this condolence message to