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Toasting an activist

Friends and family gathered Saturday at the historic Christopher Rhodes home in Pawtuxet to celebrate Madeline Harris Toy’s 101st birthday with sips of champagne and stories about the woman, a 10th descendant of Roger Williams on her father’s side. Madeline, who lived in the Rhodes House for many years and ensured its restoration, is now living in the Scandinavian Home in Edgewood. She’s happy, pointing out the meals are good, there’s lots of activities and new people to meet. She’s never let convention or authority slow her down. She bought a new car at the age of 94. No, she’s not still driving. She gave that up at age 98. She was always involved in the community. She was a member of the Society for the Propagation of Johnny Cakes and Women for a Non-Nuclear Future, a group that opposed a nuclear power plant at the former Naval Auxiliary Air Station in Charlestown. She helped form the Warwick Historic Cemetery Commission and was active in the Pawtuxet Village Association. Those gathered told how she questioned what the pharmaceutical giant Ciba Geigy, which has since closed its Rhode Island operations, was doing to the Pawtuxet River. She was a regular at city zoning meetings about the company’s plan to expand. “Integrity” was a word used by more than one person in toasting Toy, whose roots and commitment to Warwick and the state are so deep. (Warwick Beacon photos by John Howell)

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