Local artist Jon McIntosh, or “Tosh,” was an editorial cartoonist, Lucky Street gallery owner, an avid part of the Key West art world – but more importantly, just about everyone’s friend. When he passed away two weeks ago from an advanced virus, the abrupt loss resonated deeply throughout the community, but nowhere more than with me. Because he was my person.
When arranging services at St. Paul’s, Father Hooper called our relationship “providence.” Funny, I have never used the term in my life, but it fits — so much so, I wish Tosh were here to tell him. I was 18, at college in Boston and my mother invited me out to lunch to meet her new boyfriend. There was this handsome, smiley guy in a ponytail. Yes, ponytail, which I almost held against him, but I had recently burned up my college dorm room (don’t ask) and wasn’t in the mood to be anything but a sullen teen. Within minutes, Tosh could not help himself and began cracking jokes about the dramatically labeled “worst event of my life.” (It made the front page of the Herald.) And he was right, yes, burning up your freshman dorm was actually funny. I loved him immediately. Here’s the uncanny part: he was offered the job as my high school art teacher years prior but turned it down. For whatever reason, we were destined to meet. Providence. From then on, for almost three decades during the best and worst possible moments in my life, Tosh was there, being a smart ass, making me laugh and becoming my person.
He was my stepfather, my father, my best friend, often my cohort, my sidekick, or just family for simplicity. Tosh was there for me, then for my husband and then my kids. No matter what, he was there. We shared a long history of friends, hometowns, art studios, art shows, holidays, birthdays, weddings, divorces, births, the best of times and the darkest. We joked that we got each other in the divorce when he and my mother separated; it was a win-win. He didn’t judge people but was a loyal, sensitive, caring man who accepted every good, bad, and ugly bit of everyone — or maybe it was just the free wine at our house. Either way, he was the only person who never knocked, because he was my person.
Providence is the supposed manifestation of care and guidance from some other force. Now, the outpouring of support from Key West, how many people understood and appreciated the goodness, the humor, the loyalty of Tosh has been his last intervention in my life, the last bit of providence. He left me, but he didn’t leave me alone. Key West is our history, our life, our love and lastly, our endless source of laughter. Everywhere I look, he is still here — in his artwork and his friends — because your person never truly leaves you. It’s providence.
Services for Jon “Tosh” McIntosh Saturday, April 14, 3:30 p.m. St. Paul’s Church, reception to follow at The Studios Of Key West.