In 1971, John and Elsie Tolnitch left Dayton, Ohio, where he had been employed in a managerial capacity at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, to move to the Northern Neck to settle in a venerable old Victorian home in the center of Heathsville.
They became active in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, serving in many capacities until John died in 1984. Thus began a quarter-of-a-century of widowhood for Elsie, who remained active and well known in the community, until her death in 2012 at the age of 103.
The Tolnitches’s arrival also heralded the beginning of frequent visits to the Northern Neck by their daughters, Su and Elaine, and their families. Su and her husband, Jim Schmalz, later moved here, where they were active in the tutoring programs in the Northumberland school system, until they moved back to the St. Louis area three years ago.
Elaine and her husband, Daniel Lozier, were also frequent visitors to the area, and Elaine, a noted artist, became well known to the local art enthusiasts. To describe Elaine most accurately would be to say that she was a bundle of joy. Her interests were truly legion. She was casual about nothing. She became friends with everyone she met, and she knew no strangers.
In Washington, where she and Dan lived with their son, Danny, Elaine came to be known as the founder of the Palisades Garden Association. She was an enthusiastic garden guru, who studied plants and could speak on countless species and varieties. For Elaine, the exotic was normal. The rarer the plant, the more she liked it.
In the 1980s she and two associates set up a garden book supply company that they called The Garden Variety, which afforded fellow gardeners the opportunity to become aware of significant garden literature and the ability to select from a wide selection of publications.
Gardening and horticulture went with her other vocation, which was painting and design. Her understanding of color and composition was masterful, and her practice of many art forms was extensive. She would say that she liked all art forms, and I am certain that she would be unable to say when she decided to become an artist. Art was a lifelong pursuit for her.
In her early years she enjoyed drawing and sketching. She grew as an artist to encompass many art forms from pastels and charcoal to what probably was her favorite, painting on silk. She exhibited in juried art shows, often winning awards for her work. She was particularly happy when speaking of the variety of her artistic pursuits.
She found the Northern Neck to be an inspirational source for her painting, and Kilmarnock a welcoming audience and market for some of her artistic productions. In Washington she became a docent at the Keeger Museum of Art, using the association there to deepen and expand her own forms of artistic expression.
Elaine earned a master’s in adult education from George Washington University, and she used those skills in working with the Washington Saturday School, an institution that prepares potential students for admission to four-year colleges and universities to which they otherwise might not have been qualified. She was a mentor to many people, giving guidance and hope to each of them. She was a loving and caring person to everyone she met.
After her mother’s death and her sister’s return to the Midwest, and as her own health declined, Elaine was not able to make the trips to the Northern Neck that had invigorated her spirits for many years. She retained all of her interests, but sadly her physical stamina waned. In January she died at the age of 77. Her years might have reached that figure, but her love of life and indomitable spirit had remained those of a teenager.
Elaine Marie Tolnitch Lozier, February 15, 1943, – January 17, 2021. R.I.P.