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AV march newsletter

Steve Toby
Age 76

Story by Cynthia Overbeck Bix


Current interests: Native Here Nursery and community volunteer; LGTBQ advocate; choral singer; stamp collector

Career: Peace Corps volunteer; teacher; computer specialist; therapist


“You have to find your corner of the vineyard—what you do well, what you enjoy doing.”


A gentle soul, Steve speaks with wry humor as well as quiet conviction on topics that matter deeply to him. These days, his focus is on ecology and stewardship of the environment. As a transgender person, he is committed to building community among LGBTQ elders.


On retirement

My life in these later years has opened up in the sense that now that I’m retired, I can go after the things I really enjoy doing, like singing in the Contra Costa Chorale and doing volunteer work.


After I left my job as a computer specialist for the city and county of San Francisco, I started working as a therapist. I quit in 2007, at age 67. I live alone, and I thought, what am I going to do with myself?


I went online to one of these volunteer sites. And then I saw that Native Here Nursery in Tilden Park, Berkeley, needed volunteers. And it was just—wow! This is it! So I started at the nursery, and it really gave me a focus.


On volunteering

When I first started volunteering at Native Here Nursery in 2007, I went once a week and potted plants. Then I started going twice a week.


The second time I went up there to volunteer, I said, ‘These are my people.’ I just sensed that these were the kind of people I enjoy being with.


I was asked to be the volunteer coordinator for their annual Plant Fair, and then I was asked if I would be the Plant Fair Coordinator. Eventually, I was asked to join the board.


I’m not into gardening—for me, it’s more about the native plants, and the environment. It’s about encouraging people to grow native plants because, first, it’s good for the environment, and second, it keeps those plants going.


I was a volunteer early in my life, too, for the Peace Corps. When I was 25, I taught math and science in a rural high school in Malaysia. My parents were opposed to my going, but I'm glad I did. It’s the highlight of my life.



On Ashby Village

I volunteer at Ashby Village, driving members to doctors’ appointments and helping them with computers. I’ve also taken the MedPal training.


As a transgender elder, I’ve worked with other Ashby Village members to form the LGBTQQA group. Our goals are to facilitate visibility for trans elders in our community, and to address the issue of appropriate aging care.


All the same, I don’t consider myself an activist. To me, doing volunteer work is its own reward.


On growing older

I’m 76, but I don’t feel old. I live very much in the present. I’ve never been a person to dwell too much on the past or on the future.


Steve and other Village members have formed an LGBTQQA Support Group  to have more visibility and increased community participation. Everyone is welcome, regardless of sexual orientation. You can contact Steve at






Steve Toby

Younger Steve Toby