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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Late Paramount security guard leaves legacy of dedication

Courtesy Sharon Legner

John O’Toole, who worked at Emerson College for 14 years, passed away Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Tufts Medical Center. He was 59 years old. 

O’Toole worked as a security guard, most recently during the overnight shift at Paramount Center. Sixteen years ago, he was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis. O’Toole was born and raised in South Boston. He liked to fish, watch Netflix, and sleep. 

He also liked order. He was incessantly punctual and wouldn’t let his coworkers at the student tap desk play loud music or fall asleep overnight. He even bought a clock that still hangs on the wall of Paramount. They affectionately dubbed his conviction the “O’Toole Rule.” Two sisters, a brother, and a group of coworkers will miss O’Toole dearly.

“It broke my heart when I asked the doctor to donate a part of my liver,” said Sharon Legner, a Paramount security guard.

She is 63 and was told the cutoff for donors was 60. She thinks the surgery could have saved him.

Legner met O’Toole when they both started working for Securitas at Emerson fourteen years ago. They quickly became friends. When O’Toole was hospitalized four months ago, Legner dropped everything to care for him. As O’Toole’s condition deteriorated, she spent her time at his bedside while still working the Paramount security desk overnight and babysitting during the day. She was going to get a third job so she could get an apartment closer to Tufts and stay with O’Toole more often.

“He never met my granddaughter but he saw pictures and thought she was absolutely beautiful,” said Legner.

Legner bought a stuffed animal at Tufts for O’Toole. He was not a stuffed animal guy, so he told her to give it to Sofia, Legner’s 15-month-old granddaughter, who now walks around the house hugging him. The stuffed animal’s name is Bob, named after a golden retriever therapy dog whom O’Toole spent some of his last moments with. The day he passed away, he sat facing Legner, instead of his window. She squeezed his hand and left to go to the bathroom. When she came back, he had passed. 

“He was the best guy in the world,” said Legner.

O’Toole never let me get away with anything. I would sneak around the lower floors of the Paramount Center after hours. O’Toole always kept an eye out. With a sigh and a grin, he would tell me to go back up to my room because those were the rules and that was his job. He would play this game of cat and mouse with me and my friends. When we learned he was sick, the cordial nods at the tap desk became infinitely precious.

We went to visit him at Tufts, unsure if he would even recognize us. His bruised yellow skin was tight around his bones and his silver hair was messy. We stumbled over our words and he was patient as he strained to answer. Yes, of course he recognized us. No, there wasn’t anything he wanted. Especially not flowers or—god forbid—a stuffed animal. I told him that even though we gave him a hard time, we knew he was looking out for us. He knew. On our way out, I asked him if there was anything he wanted us to do for him at Emerson. He thought for a while, then he grinned and said, “Follow the rules.”

O’Toole’s clock, photo by Zac Poulin
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    Hector Mora / May 7, 2024 at 1:54 am

    I’LL miss our long talks every night at paramount security post. Will be missed. Your friend Hector Mora.