All posts by Susan Toler-Carr

Justin Carr 2022 H-W SwiM Meet

Justin’s angelic voice bursting from the sky, stunned the crowd of swimmers and fans and brought tears to my eyes, and many others, kicking off the 7th annual Justin Carr Swim Meet at Harvard – Westlake — a place where he described himself for a homework assignment to write 6 words to describe yourself. “ Darkest in Water Brightest on Stage” He certainly was.Congratulations to the 10 schools who participated and to the HW Girls and Loyola Boys teams who won!!! Thanks Coach Darlene Blix Bible for putting it together again.

Justin’s Voice Opening Up the Meet 3/11/2022


Essay Competition Justin won to send off 2008 Olympian Jason Lezak who saved the day for Michael Phelps

Dear guardian angel justin


Numbers, Wings, Butterflies & Things

Dear Guardian Angel Justin,


The day our world changed. 

Justin had a good day at school.

He called at work me before swim practice.

He was laughing.

He was dancing.

Collage of Justin by Justin

He was singing to Beyonce’s song: 

            End of Time

Come take my hand

I won’t let you go

I’ll be your friend

I will love you so, deeply

I will be the one to kiss you at night

I will love you until the end of time”

Then he dove into the pool. 

He swam a few butterfly laps.

He went into Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Later we learned of an undiagnosed heart condition.

Our Father, Mother, and Son linkage was broken.



“All my troubles seemed so far away

Now it looks as though they’re here to stay

Oh, I believe in yesterday.”

I spent hours in Justin’s room.

Looking at his handwriting on things.

Gazing at his bookshelf.

Something was snuggled tight between books.

There was a figurine of 3 little angels. 

Justin’s Gift to Me
My 2 sister sisters. I’m always in the middle.

He gave it to me on my Birthday.

He said it reminded him of my two sisters and me.

Tucked in the corner was a handmade boy rag doll.

My friend Michelle gave it to Justin.

As a toddler, he called it: “Angel Baby.”

Justin and His Angel Baby 1997

The halo was missing.

I flipped it over.

The wings were still there after 25 years.

Its wings looked like a butterfly.

Angel Wings

I had never thought of the similarities.

Between a butterfly and angel wings.

Butterfly on my hand in Costa Rica 2017

But there it was.

Right in front of my eyes.

But I won’t have any troubles looking at these angels!

The sight of butterflies silences me with joy.


There is a lot of talk about numerology.

I read about the 2’s


“2” means

Guardian Angel #2 

Reminder of their presence in my life

To move forward

That I’m on the right path and keep it that way

They will take me under their wings 

They will protect and watch me

They will show me that life is more than I see

“22,” is the number of the master builder. “This is the number associated with building something bigger than yourself. And it’s about what we can build when we work together.”

“222” affirms your path and requests to stay true in your light. Trust in your process. The angels are showing you that they want happiness for you. View 222 as a reminder that there is always hope.

“22222” “This day is a great one to reflect on how we communicate with our loved ones and to seek to maintain an open-heart connection. Today is about connections and coming together—not just in one-on-one pairs but among larger groups and communities, as well. Taken together, those themes underscore our connections to our communities and the world as a whole— “This is a day that can help us move forward as a global society, hopefully, closer to a resolution that can benefit us all.”

Today we went to the cemetery.

I watched Darrell carefully clean Justin’s stone.

Then he remembered we forgot to get flowers.

He went up the street to pick flowers from his beloved mother’s garden.

He came back with a bundle of Bird of Paradise.

He said: “I clipped 9 flowers.”

I said: Why 9?

He said, looking at me: “It’s been 9 years since Justin died.”

In that moment, I had forgotten.

I snap a picture.

When I got home I responded to Ms. Q’s text.

She was his elementary school Principal.

Justin loved being in her plays she produced at school.

Justin as Rafiki in the “Lion King” 4th Grade
Justin and Ms. Q his Middle School Principal 2012

I sent her the picture of the flowers.

She writes back : 

“In Hawaiian, Birds of Paradise means “Little Globe” and represents magnificence. The bird of paradise is the official flower for a ninth wedding anniversary. Birds of paradise also represent having a good perspective on life.”

Justin drew his “Little Globe”
Justin and his Globe he made out of a ball 5th Grade

I read  the message to Darrell.

We were shocked.


Then I read: “The emotions, creativity, and other elements of Number 2 will upgrade or go one level higher, as this day is also influenced strongly by Number 9.”

I can’t believe it’s been 9 years.  

Like yesterday, today and tomorrow, I will continue to love this life and live it as bravely, faithfully, and cheerfully as I can on the wings of Justin’s love—until the end of time.

On the Wings of Love By Jeffrey Osborne 

Just smile for me

And let the day begin

You are the sunshine

That lights my heart within

And I’m sure that you’re

An angel in disguise

Come take my hand and

Together we will rise

On the wings of love

Up and above the clouds

The only way to fly

Is on the wings of love

On the wings of love

Only the two of us

Together flying high

Flying high up on the wings of love

Dear Guardian Angel Justin,

Please keep sending us signs in the numbers, butterflies, wings, and things.


Mom aka OTTO


Angel Wings & Butterflies

Flowers that mean Little Globe

Numbers that mean peace, community, and hope

Songs with Meaning

I can’t make this up!

The Family
Justin in Catalina 2012S
Susan wearing Justin’s jacket in Catalina 2017
Card to me from Justin on Valentines. Why he calls me OTTO
Poem written by Justin’s friend Claire Nordstrom




JUSTIN CARR was a young Renaissance man who loved the visual and performing arts. He was 4 years old when he started his quest to achieve World Peace. On 2/22/2013, at the age of 16, Justin died suddenly during swim practice at his school. He had an undiagnosed heart condition (cardiomyopathy), which resulted in his Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). SCA is the #1 Killer of student-athletes, contributes to the #2 Medical cause of death of individuals under the age of 25, and is the #1 cause of death on school campuses. JCWWP is a 501(c) 3 created in Justin’s honor and memory and his desire for World Peace. Our mission is to promote and support World Peace through education, mentorship, scholarship, heart screenings, and heart health awareness. 

Through the art he left behind, Justin continues to show us the power of the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and the butterflies flying above, and a thing called love. There are many different meanings for the Tree of Life. Justin created this fabulous World Tree watercolor image gracing this cover when he was 10 years old. The colors merge and are diverse, rich, and vibrant. It clearly shows that various species can co-mingle and live together in peace. 

Justin’s parents Susan & Darrell planted the seeds in him and allowed him to grow—which is what JCWWP continues to do even in times of uncertainty in our world. As the remnants of 2020 continued to reveal themselves in 2021, JCWWP stood tall like a tree with growth, strength, and community connections.

JCWWP 2021 Accomplishments:

•           Presented webinar to the National Football League (NFL) on how to be game-changers and influence the need for heart screenings, CPR & AED training for professional, collegiate, high school, and youth sports to help prevent SCA. 

Co-Presented with EP Save a Life Foundation

•           Talked at Educational, Heart Health & Peace Conferences

•           Awarded multiple scholarships to students in 7th-12th grade

•           Mentored students and young professionals

•           Hosted a Good Grief Program for bereaved parents

•           Sponsored Art Competition for Elementary & Middle Schools 

•           Donated AED’s to lacking facilities

Through the art he left behind, Justin continues to show us the power of the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and the butterflies flying above, and a thing called love. There are many different meanings for the Tree of Life. Justin created this fabulous World Tree watercolor image gracing this cover when he was 10 years old. The colors merge and are diverse, rich, and vibrant. It clearly shows that various species can co-mingle and live together in peace. 

From Parent Heart Watch


Updated website 

JCWWP Annual Event date TBD

In-person Heart Screenings and Art Programs dates TBD

Like trees, we all have our unique roots, we come in different shapes, colors, and textures, and we all need essential things to grow and thrive. The World Tree is foundational to supporting all life. It shows us the power of our interconnectivity with everything around us and that we can co-exist peacefully. A broken tree bears exceptional fruit; we are all the same branch reaching towards the sun.

SECURE WAYS to DONATE (100% Tax-Deductible)


CHECK: JCWWP 80 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. #333 

   Sierra Madre, CA.  91024                                                      

TEXT: JC4WP to 44-321                                                                                                             

AMAZON SMILE: You Shop Amazon Gives 

ADD: Justin Carr Wants World Peace as your Charity of Choice 

Justin swimming his favorite butterfly stroke in a meet


Justin’s 25th birthday A tribute of love

There are life-changing, life-altering, and life-ending events— it just so happened that we were there for all


Giving birth to Justin Carr World-Peace

was a glorious moment in time— which I will never forget. Darrell Carr either. This morning on his 25th bday I lay paralyzed in my thoughts — thinking about my most precious son who died at 16, barely being a young man.

Justin loved celebrating his birthdays. He had so many themes for his special day. He prayed for world peace on his 4th bday.

Justin’s 4th Bday

Justin lived, loved, and laughed often. He had hopes and dreams. He truly loved his family and friends. He loved helping, creating, singing, acting, and being. He had courage, compassion, commitment, community, and knew how to resolve conflicts.

He coined a poem saying he had dreams, goals, promise— opportunity.

On his first day of life, he held my finger tight. The night before he died, he told me he would take care of Darrell and me when we got old. We often think about who will take care of us now and in the days and years to come?

Darrell and I will hold each other’s hands and those in our village of people, his friends, our friends, strangers who walk with us and who love us and miss Justin too.

These are the gifts we cherish as we remember, miss, cry and smile for Justin.

I will hold on to Justin’s Memories Tight! I will stop and wonder at butterflies, too- like the one that rested in my palm in Costa Rica. He has taught his Mom his OTTO, “Over the Top Olivia,” Sooooo many things.

I am honored to be Justin’s Mom.

Happy Birthday, Honey! I miss you always and will love you forever!!


Fruits of their Labor

I rarely take the time to go outside and smell the roses. On the other hand, Darrell spends hours a week outside watering his garden, chasing butterflies with his camera, repotting his plants, and just moving stuff around. You know we have bears in our neighborhood. Just two doors up, our friends post pictures almost weekly of the “BearbNd “who sleeps nightly on the side of their house and sometimes into the midday hours seriously!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!

So, I have been staying inside!! Today I decided to sit quietly with Darrell before the bears came. I watched the hummingbirds sip nectar from the flowers. I listened to the neighborhood kids at play, gazed at the graceful butterflies in flight, looked at the rusted basketball hoop, Justin’s old GI Joe camouflage truck blending in the distant bushes, and then I saw the tree.

The peach tree with peaches ripe and ready to eat. Suddenly, it was reflection time. Years ago, when we moved here, there was a beautiful crape myrtle tree adorning the planter just outside the window. However, it was attracting way too many bees.

The Crape Myrtle

One day, when Darrell was working, and Justin was watching from the truck, he said: “Dad, we need to plant some food, trees that bear fruit so we can always have food and never go hungry.” So together, they dug up the old tree and planted lemon and peach trees in its place.

So, years later, we now have strawberries. Lemon, peach trees, and so many flowers and plants and ornamental butterflies that our friends gift us to attack butterflies.

Darrell’s garden is home to the birds, bees, flowers, and trees as the sun shines, and the moon lights us and watches us from on high in their natural glory. And the trees are much taller and broader by far than they were a few years ago. They have grown and stretched out like arms closing in for a big hug.



Today, I tried a recipe I found, “Peach Cobbler Cookies,” paying homage

to Darrell and Justin with their fruit from their labor and love. Recipe for Cookies

Darrell and Justin did most of the yard’s rock work, and Darrell made the metal arches and took these pictures today. Home is what you make it…

PHOTOS BY Darrell Carr

Life as a Walt Disney imagineer and beyond

I can testify that there are life changing and life altering events. 

interview link

Radio Disney contacted me a few months ago to talk about my time as a Walt Disney Imagineer and life as I know it with the Justin Carr World-Peace Foundation (JCWWP)- formed after Justin died from an undiagnosed heart condition at age 16. Justin was a young Renaissance man who loved all things Disney— visited the parks in California and Florida and had many of his birthdays there with friends. Once he even designed his bday cupcakes with his friend’s likeness for his celebration, and he played Rafiki in 4th grade in his school’s “Lion King “Production. Justin had hopes and dreams of becoming an Imagineer one day with all of his creative abilities. I’m glad he got to enjoy some aspects of the parks. He was so proud that I once worked there.

Below is the link to my conversation with compassionate Radio Disney Host Betsy Spina. The show was to air on April 11, 2021. I later found out that Radio Disney has shut down after being in business for 25 years. What a loss on so many levels. I am so grateful that I was able to get a copy of my interview and share it. After I listened to it, my husband Darrell (photographer extraordinaire) and I decided that adding photos to the audio would be a perfect way to tell the story. Thankful that Darrell had thousands of images that fit right in with the audio conversation. Thank you, Betsy & team, for making this happen.

Please click on this Interview Link.

Let me know your thoughts.



Written By: Matt Maiocco Feb. 17, 2021

Watch the 7 minute Video


Read the following for more Details and sibling quotes following


Hot off the press! Some good news for a change. 

Please read this feel good story about a team aka a band of brothers who stood on the right side of history despite their  many differences. NBC Sports writer Matt Maiocco contacted our family a few weeks ago and produced this wonderful written and visual story about my Dad and our memories of this gentle giant. 

Read the story and Justin Carr World-Peace is not forgotten!! 

There are two short videos. Be sure to click on the 6 minute youtube video to see me ( lol)

Burl Toler’s son spotted something he had never before seen as his father packed for one of his routine 36-hour trips to officiate an NFL game.B

And the significance of what young Martel Toler saw that day would not become clear until many years later.

Burl Toler became the first Black NFL official in 1965. He spent 25 seasons as a field judge and head linesman. Nobody but Toler really knew what he dealt with during a quarter-century of work in NFL stadiums across every section of America.

And his children can only imagine because Toler never spoke a word of the inescapable racism he faced along the way.

But when Martel saw a plastic shell that fit inside his father’s officiating hat, he asked for an explanation.

“He said there’d been times when people had thrown stuff at him,” Martel remembered. “It looked like a normal hat when he had it on, but I guess it was a little protective shield that he had.”

Burl Toler, who died more than a decade ago, was the perfect man to traverse chasms. The man who made ends meet as the first Black toll-taker on the Bay Bridge also built bridges of a different kind.

His memorial service on Aug. 26, 2009, at Saint Ignatius Church on the campus of the University of San Francisco drew an overflow crowd of mourners and admirers.

“The church was full, rolling out the church, because not only was he a great athlete, great official, he was a great teacher and administrator,” former long-time NFL referee Mike Carey said. “He broke barriers everywhere he went. The outpouring of people who just loved that man, it was very heart-warming.”

Toler stands as one of the most important and transcendent figures in Bay Area history.

His influence reached far beyond the sporting world. And his legacy is carried on today by his three daughters and three sons, his 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

He touched thousands of other lives as an educator, rising to become the first Black secondary school principal in the history of the San Francisco School District. He was also a San Francisco police commissioner, on the University of San Francisco Board of Trustees, and served various other leadership roles in the community.

“All these different things are prime examples that his legacy lives on forever,” said his grandson, Burl Toler III, the wide receivers coach at Cal.

“I think he was an activist. He is a legend. He was a superhero. The best part is that he did it, not for that recognition, but because he knew things needed to be done the right way.”

“If you can show me a man who has never made a mistake, I will show you a man who has never made a decision”

Those who knew him well remember the mantras he repeated. They were not cliches. His words served as his guiding principles. Everything about the man was genuine and authentic.

Toler often said he may have been the first, but if he did his job the right way, he would not be the last.

It took 55 years from the time Toler first stepped on the field as an official for the NFL to assign a crew composed entirely of African American officials – something Carey points out should have happened randomly many times over the years.

Referee Jerome Boger led his on-field crew of seven onto Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, for the Buccaneers’ Week 11 game against the Los Angeles Rams in 2020.

All-Black NFL officiating crew for the first time ever on Nov. 23, 2020

“He had a huge smile,” Carey remembered of Toler. “And it would’ve gone from ear to ear, because it was a great accomplishment. But it was so long overdue.”

Another officiating first occurred on that same field on Feb. 7. Down judge Sarah Thomas became the first female to officiate a Super Bowl when Tampa Bay and the Kansas City Chiefs met in Super Bowl LV.


That was all Toler wanted throughout his life. And he demanded it in his typically understated way. He was the perfect person to be first – regardless of what field he was blazing a trail.

Then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle knew exactly what he was doing when he offered Toler a position as the first African American on-field official in all of North American professional sports during the heights of the Civil Rights Movement.

Rozelle knew exactly the kind of man who must be chosen to fulfill that job and live up to that standard.

And he knew Toler had everything that was required to handle the challenges.

“Pete Rozelle is the reason my dad was chosen to be the first (Black official) in the National Football League,” said Burl Toler Jr., the eldest son of Burl and Melvia Toler. “He knew him as a person, knew him as an athlete. I think Pete knew what he was getting in my father, and it was kind of a no-brainer that it was time in 1965 to bring my dad into the NFL.

“And I think, I don’t know, I’ve never talked to Pete about it and, of course, Pete has passed. I’m sure Pete would say he made a pretty good decision.”

Rozelle was sports information director at the University of San Francisco when he first got to know Toler, one of the stars of the Dons’ legendary unbeaten, united football team of 1951.

“Do the right thing”

Toler grew up in Memphis, a city beset by racial tension. His mother, Annie King Toler, and father, Arnold Toler, wanted a better life for him. They sent him to Berkeley to live with his mom’s brother, businessman Louis King.

He enrolled at City College of San Francisco, never having played football in his life. A coach saw him on campus and persuaded him to give football a try. Toler agreed.

He combined rare size, strength and athleticism along with determination and being a quick study. Toler was stationed at linebacker and was told, simply, to tackle the man with the football during the first practice before the 1948 season.

He did it once, making it look effortless, much to the bewilderment of the ballcarrier and everyone watching.

He did it again. And again.

“They were like, ‘Who is this guy?’” said Susan Toler Carr, one of Burl’s three daughters. “After a few tackles, that’s how they met. ‘Hi, I’m Ollie,’ And, ‘I’m Burl,’ and they became best friends from there.”

Ollie Matson was already an established star, clearly destined for football greatness. Toler showed from the first moments on the field that he was a natural with an unlimited future.

The two men were teammates at City College. Together, they went on to get educated and play football at USF. They were best friends off the field. That connection lasted until Toler’s passing in 2009. Matson died two years later.

The USF team was the stuff of legends. Matson, Bob St. Clair and Gino Marchetti would eventually earn busts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Eight players would go on to play in the NFL, including five who were chosen to play in at least one Pro Bowl.

And Toler might have been the best of the bunch, many of his former teammates agreed. He was a team captain and the leading tackler. He would be considered a prototype NFL linebacker even in today’s game.

The Dons appeared destined for a prestigious bowl game that would have provided the university with much-needed funds to keep the football program afloat. After capping a 9-0 regular season with a 20-2 victory over Loyola at the Rose Bowl, USF received a conditional invitation to the Orange Bowl.

The condition? Toler and Matson, the team’s two Black players, would not be allowed to play in the game.

There was nothing, really, to talk about. The Dons declined the invitation. There was no thought given to playing a game if any members of the team were going to be excluded. The team was a team – and skin color was immaterial.

“We told them to go to hell,” the late St. Clair said to thunderous approval at a 2011 event to commemorate the 60-year anniversary of the team.

“These guys said, ‘No, if Burl and Ollie can’t go to the game, we’re not going to go,’ ” Susan said. “That was the end of the football season. They chose compassion and what was right over money and fame, and they all were able to go on and do their things in life.”

Faced with a financial crisis, USF disbanded the football program after that season, never to again play at the NCAA Division I level.

The last time that unbreakable team got together was at the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, where the Dons were honored during an emotional halftime tribute in Tempe, Arizona.

“What I saw was brotherly love,” Susan said. “It didn’t matter what they looked like. You could tell there was an earnest amount of love they had and support and admiration. They always said, ‘Your dad was one of the best – not just on the field but in character.’”

Photo via Darrell Carr The 1951 USF Dons gather at the 2008 Fiesta Bowl

“Don’t let other people determine how you act”

Like many of his teammates, Toler appeared destined for fame in the NFL. But fate had other plans for him.

He sustained a badly broken leg in an all-star game that pitted the best in college football against the NFL champions, the Los Angeles Rams, at Soldier Field in Chicago. The college all-stars were in a tightly contested game and Toler was having an exceptional game, when he sustained a devastating injury on a low, blind-side block.

He was drafted with the No. 105 overall pick to play for the Cleveland Browns. But after a long stay in a Chicago hospital, he never played football again. Those closest to him never heard him express any bitterness or regret about the suddenly, devastating end of his football career.

“He probably used it as inspiration,” said his son, Burl Jr. “He had to stay about a month in Chicago. He couldn’t fly until he sufficiently healed. When he came back, he never looked back. He never talked about what could’ve or should’ve been. He used it as inspiration to become an educator.”

Toler returned to the Bay Area and initially worked as a toll-taker. He graduated from USF with a bachelor’s degree in 1952 and a master’s in 1966. He thrived during a long teaching and administrative career at Benjamin Franklin Middle

He became the first Black secondary school principal in the San Francisco School District. He continued to work in education, impacting young lives while traveling the country on weekends to officiate NFL games.

“When he was elected to be an official, it was at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1965,” Martel said. “But he didn’t think twice about accepting the position, because that’s the kind of person he was.”

Toler was selected to officiate as head linesman for Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 31-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 20, 1980.

Carey entered the league in 1990, the year after Toler retired from on-field work. Toler kept close contact with Carey and many other officials over the next eight years as an NFL observer and mentor. Carey later became the first African American referee in a Super Bowl, when he worked as the head of the officiating crew at Super Bowl XLII.

Carey reflects now on his crew having the games of their lives that day, Feb. 3, 2008, for the New York Giants’ 17-14 victory over the New England Patriots in Glendale, Arizona. He might only have been in that position because Toler proved to be so capable in leading the way.

Carey said he cannot even begin to understand what Toler must have faced on a weekly basis throughout his career.

“When you think back to what he had to go through on that undefeated team at USF, that had to be horrendous,” Carey said. “Every stadium, you walk through a tunnel that’s lined with fans. And you get some very interesting comments as you go through now.

“But I can’t imagine what he went through, being the first African American (official) to show up in any stadium, in any sport. And I think that’s when you get those who are trying to thwart progress do their best to try to undermine whoever is that first one to break that barrier. And, boy, did he stand up tall.”

Burl Toler knew that – as unfair as it was – many others would be judged by his actions. He approached his job with the utmost professionalism, even scolding some of his former USF teammates that he could not socialize with them when he was on the field to officiate one of their NFL games.

“He knew he was there for a purpose, which was to do a job and do the job as the first,” Burl Jr. said. “And his response always was if he goes out and referees a good game and is fair in his responses, even though he’s Black, as long as he does his job well, he won’t be the last.”

“Do your best and your best will be good enough”

Burl Toler was a lot of things to a lot of people. But his sons and daughters remember him, above all else, as a father and husband.A

“He always wanted to do his best as an educator, as a referee, as a college All-American,” Burl Jr. said. “But I think the thing that really drove him was his ability to be a father. And not just a father, but a good father and a presence when the opportunity arose.

“He was not only the father to all six of us, it was to students, family, friends and mere acquaintances who also looked to him as a father as well.”

Greg Toler is writing a book about his father’s life, but he said it is impossible to tell the story of Burl Toler without highlighting his supporting wife, Melvia, who preceded him in death.

“She was really the MVP, to be honest,” Greg said. “All Hall of Famers have to have somebody to block and tackle for them, so to speak. And she was the one who really allowed him to excel in everything he did. So she’s going to be a very big part of the book, as well.”

Daughter Valerie is the eldest of the six siblings. Her father lived with her in his final two years as he battled Alzheimer’s.

“They were pretty much inseparable,” Valerie said. “She would pack my dad’s clothes every Friday night and make sure he had everything and drop him off at the airport. He left Saturday morning and would come back Sunday night.”

Burl and Melvia created a loving and compassionate environment inside their home on Orizaba Avenue in the Ingleside District of San Francisco.

Toler was a commissioner of the San Francisco Police Department from 1978-96 and served on USF’s Board of Trustees from 1987-98. He was inducted into USF’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1959.

The former Benjamin Franklin Middle School campus, now the home of Gateway Charter School, was named in his honor in 2006. Toler was enshrined into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. An on-campus residential dorm at USF was named for him posthumously in 2017.

“It’s monumental,” Carey said. “I don’t care what race you are. To have those credentials that he has . . . who has that? And for African Americans, it fulfills that dream that we all hope for, which is give us a chance. Like all Americans, just give us a chance and we’ll shine just like anybody else does.

“Burl Toler, as a man, was very unique. You look at any segment of his life and you’d be thrilled to have one-tenth of the success that he had.”

Burl Toler campus at Gateway High School Photo by Darrell Carr

“Children learn most of their first character lessons in the home”

Those accolades, busts and structures named in his honor serve as markers for a life well-lived. The greatest testament to Burl Toler’s legacy are the family members to whom he showed that anything is possible.

“I’m very close with all my siblings, my nieces and nephews,” said daughter Jennifer. “My own son, he knows his grandpa. He knows everything his grandpa stood for, what he’s done for his community.

“Being super athletic, he reminds me of my dad a lot. He asks questions all the time. I instill in my son, J.J., the importance of what his grandfather and grandmother did for their community and for their family and how family is important and one of the top priorities.”

Justin Carr, son of Susan and husband Darrell, created a special bond with his grandfather. Though separated by nearly 68 years, they were unmistakably kindred spirits.

“They were going to name Benjamin Franklin after my dad and the whole family was at the event,” Susan said. “Justin said, ‘I want a suit just like Papa.’ He was probably 9 years old. We got an old-man suit for our little son.”

Justin and his Papa Photo by Darrell Carr

Justin wanted to wear the same style of shoes as his grandfather. Duly impressed with his grandson’s appearance, Burl Toler told the precocious young man, “I have a tie for you, too.”

Said Susan, “Justin was so proud to look like his grandpa.”

Justin wanted to be an architect. He was active in all aspects of Harvard-Westlake High School. He was a student national merit scholar, Junior Olympics swimmer, visual and performing artist and a leader of the Black Leadership Awareness and Culture Club.

Three-and-a-half years after his grandfather passed away, 16-year-old Justin lost consciousness during a swim practice. He died of an undiagnosed heart condition, idiopathic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

True to the lasting impact of the family’s patriarch, Justin left a legacy of his own.

At 4 years old, he wished for world peace when given the opportunity to bless the food before a meal. Justin always wanted to help underserved kids – even as a child himself, his mother says.

His parents established a foundation in his memory, Justin Carr Wants World Peace. The non-profit organization provides free heart screenings for youth and young adults, art and peace programs and awards scholarships to grade school students who demonstrate excellence and promise in the areas of visual arts, performing arts and/or academic achievement.

“It’s hard to have them both gone, but the times we had together were beautiful in memories,” Susan said. “It doesn’t replace the loss that we have, but knowing we had those precious times, and they were so alike in so many ways.”

It is difficult to find anyone who accomplished as much as Burl Toler in as many different areas.

He never spoke of his feats or the obstacles he overcame that were set up to prevent him along the way.

The greatest personal pride he experienced was in the successes and good deeds of his family members.

He provided the opportunities. He provided the examples. He instilled the drive and determination.

He quietly endured a lot of hardships along the way, from Memphis to the Bay Area to every NFL city, in order to make the path – albeit not perfect – perhaps a little less daunting for those who followed.

His name, Burl Toler, carries on in the family through his son, who has forged a long career as an architect and project manager after playing linebacker at Cal in the mid-1970s. Burl Toler Jr. was named as the winner of the 2018 Glenn Seaborg Award, presented annually to a former Cal football player for representing the Cal principles and traditions of excellence in academics, athletics, leadership and attitude.

The name carries on through Burl Toler’s grandson, a four-year letter-winner as a Cal wide receiver who routinely was asked by officials whether he was related to the Burl Toler. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in social welfare and a concentration in sociology, he spent time with the Raiders and Washington of the NFL. He now serves as a mentor for young men as a college coach.

The name is carried on through Burl Toler’s great-grandson, son of Burl III, who recently turned 3 years old. The late author Alex Haley once wrote, “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”

Each generation of Burl Abron Toler is distinguished by a nickname. Senior was B.T.; Junior is Butch; Burl Toler III is Burly; and the youngest is Bo.

“They called him B.T.” Susan said of her father. “I thought it was for Burl Toler, but they said it was for ‘Big Time.’ And he said, ‘No, that’s not me.’”

As much as he did not seek attention and actively tried to deflect or downplay his influential role within his community and beyond, Burl Toler was unequivocally Big Time.

As the years pass and America still faces obvious challenges and barriers in achieving racial equality, greater perspective and appreciation is gained. Burl Toler stature only grows as his memory remains fresh and his footprints grow in size.

“(We) definitely appreciate all that he stood for, all that he was to our family,” Jennifer said. “He was the rock. As we look at it now, he is just an even bigger rock. He’s that mountain.


a tree of life (For two Justin’s MOMS) WAS IT A COINCIDENCE?


Two Sons

Two Moms

Both named Justin

I can’t make this stuff up!

It’s a story I had inside since last Christmas 2019.

The day my life changed on 2/22/2013 was a Hard Stop for all things that I once knew.

Including duties and responsibilities as:
Justin’s Mother
and as a Career Professional Engineer

And as time continues to move around me, sometimes I can’t escape feeling the emotions of seasons and timeless rituals and their impacts that hit me like a hurricane.

Those distant memories of Joy celebrating milestones stopped too:

Christmasthe Biggest one of the Year meant NO TREE… NOT for me.

I would fall out at every glimpse of one these past 7 years

So, I have not decorated the house since 2012 —no tree, no lights, no gifts because there was No Justin!

Justin loved, loved, loved all things Christmas.
He knew we would celebrate with Darrell’s Family.
Then travel to San Francisco to be with my Family.

There was the Gumbo Feast at Uncle Butch’s and Aunt Sue’s house.
Opening presents and putting on shows with the cousins
And the White Elephant game with families collectively strategizing for capturing the grandest of them all prize.

Justin also loved celebrating Kwanzaa. ( an annual celebration of African-American culture that is held from December 26 to January 1)

My 2013 Birthday was about 45 days after Justin died. All I wanted to do was crawl under a rock and cry, and it showed when Darrell tried to cheer me up and take me out to lunch.

Tina, our waitress, introduced herself and asked if we were celebrating anything special.
With tears in my eyes, I sadly said: “It’s my birthday.”
Tina asked: “Why do you look so sad?”
I said our son died…
Tina kept her composure and held back her tears, and asked what his name was? I said, Justin.
She said I am so, so sorry. I can’t even imagine. My only son’s name is Justin… I will take care of you today, ok.” I can tell she was jilted (as I was saying those words) when she walked away. It’s shocking you know to say: My child died!

We finished lunch. Tina and I gave each other a big hug like we did not want to let go.

Fast forward four years later, 2017

As I left the Bank, a woman approached me and said: “You are Justin’s Mom. Do you remember me? I am Tina. I was your waitress on your bday four years ago, and I have a son named Justin too. I recognize you because you are wearing a Justin Carr Wants World Peace t-shirt, and you carry a story I will never forget. “Our eyes of sentiment and compassion locked, and we hugged and departed as she hurried to get in the long line.

Fast forward two years later, 2019

I get an email.

“My Dear Susan,

I’ve met many people working at Mi Piace, and many of them have stories to tell. But for some reason, yours always stuck with me, and I always wondered how you dealt with the cards you were given. I guess it’s been about six years now since I first met you and just a couple since I ran into you in Bank of America. It doesn’t seem that long ago.

I thought of you frequently before, and I think of you daily now as I try to adjust to the new life that I hate, without my Justin. My Justin died in a car accident on July 12th. It’s been over a month, but it seems to get harder every day. All I can do is pray and hope that in time…………………………….but I don’t think that time will really change anything. Does it? My Justin was my only, as was yours, I believe.

Thinking of you, and now I can say, feeling your pain.

Love and blessings to you,


I trembled as I read the email; I told Darrell we have to go to the restaurant. Now! We had not been there since 2013.

We walked in. We asked to be seated in Tina’s area. When she approached our table, no words were necessary. We jumped up and hugged her. All I said as I looked deeply into her eyes was: “What time do you get off of work? Come to our house.” We ate, went home, and within a few hours, Tina was at our door.

At first, there were many minutes of silence.
I told Tina that no words could replace her unimaginable loss of losing her son. I shared with her what my friend Valerie told me. Losing a child changes you. We are different. Our arms are empty. Our arms are full. Our eyes are sad. Our eyes are curious. Death impacts the body and mind. Like the naked branch of a tree, you grow differently in the air. It’s ok. There is no timeline or method for dealing with loss or grief.

She told me her Justin loved the color blue, the Dodgers, and his family and friends. His trademark was a puzzle he has tattooed on his arm. We laughed. We cried, and we are forever connected.

2019 and Beyond

Tina and I talk and walked (before COVID) and share moments of gratitude and memories of each of our boys.

Tina is creative in her thoughts and her gifts are abundant. She gave me this puzzle and other gifts that showcase our Justin’s!!


Justin’s favorite swim stroke was the butterfly so butterflies now have special meaning to us. I was in shock last Christmas when she gave us this tree that she made full of butterflies carefully placed. It made me smile. So this year I finally decided to turn on the lights and showcase the beauty surrounding our life. It is time to put up a tree– at least this one.

It is time to turn on the lights that are all part of the tree of life.

Our Justin’s will be proud that their Mom’s are connected and will carry both of them in our hearts. Forever.

Thank you, Tina, for shining your light of love on me. You have helped me. This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine.

The 2019 Tree came with a custom ornament from Tina too.


A broken tree bears exceptional fruit. We are all of the same branch reaching towards the sun.






Holiday Blessings Really sending 24/7 Blessings to all of us living who get the gift of life.


These are my thoughts this Christmas Morning, 2020.


Dear Friends,

Like you, the Justin Carr Wants World Peace Foundation (JCWWP) started 2020 off, hoping for a year filled with joy, happiness, and Peace. We had plans to reach more people with our Art (free programs for students), Heart (free heart screenings), and Peace. Ah, Peace, this is what Justin, our Renaissance, young man, wanted beginning at the age of 4. He envisioned a world where all people are committed to creating, building, and designing a global environment of Peace.


We did accomplish some good things, but then the world changed in a flash-just like that. First, it was COVID-19, which then soon collided with the civil unrest that crossed the globe. We have shared some profound moments of pain, witnessing the dehumanization and corruption in our communities and country. It can be hard to know what to do and difficult to pinpoint precisely where the oppression has always lived.

Tragically, this world is still an overwhelmingly unsafe place for many with social identities— who don’t “fit in.” Yet, they still show up to school, work, watch tv, and walk outside while still stuck in unprocessed grief, enduring more stress, anxiety, and covering important parts of themselves. Some face a threat and reality of death every day combined with the loss of basic opportunities and dignity.

JCWWP went into action. We adapted to the change, listened, and mentored remotely, provided resources, supported mobile educational platforms that reach kids living in transitional housing. We produced the Good Grief webinar series, partnered with the Ceeds of Peace non-profit organization, and provided tangible ways and toolkits for individuals to grow Peace while navigating the toughest and most challenging parts of their lives.  

Webinar comments:

“Thank you so much for the webinar you gave and thank you for sharing Justin’s story. Everything you spoke about was insightful and made me think more in-depth about the privileges I have had in my life because of my skin. I was also really interested in the breakdown of important actions that we, as individuals, teachers, children, corporations, and the media, must take to unlearn our racist behaviors and have empathy for everyone.”

“We are definitely in a time of examining and re-examining our biases. Even in the midst of this troubling time, I do believe the next generations are and will continue to move us forward.”

What did we learn?  We learned that Grief is us. Good Grief is everyone who wants more, a better way to live when the worst thing has happened. JCWWP is offering an invitation for each of us to keep our hearts and eyes open as we continue learning, inspiring, and empowering ourselves to share our stories to challenge and be upstanders instead of bystanders. May we all make choices daily to lead inclusively with confidence during both uncertain and prosperous times. And, through Justin’s vision of world Peace, we can all reconnect to a sense of hope and regain purpose by doing the best so we can and grow Peace from here. Every day is a day of thanksgiving. 


Remember, we are the mirrors for our children, who are the future. We have to teach them well and let them lead the way. Let them dream and realize their possibilities.  


In Peace and Love,

Justin Carr Wants World Peace Foundation   

Contributions are accepted year-round, and we appreciate your support in helping us continue to be the change. Please see the back of the card for secure donation information. Thank you.

JUSTIN CARR was a young Renaissance man who loved the visual and performing arts. He was four years old when he started his quest to achieve world Peace. On 2/22/2013, at the age of 16, Justin died suddenly during swim practice at his school. He had an undiagnosed heart condition (cardiomyopathy), which resulted in his Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). SCA is the #1 Killer of student-athletes, contributes to the #2 Medical cause of death of individuals under the age of 25, and is the #1 cause of death on school campuses. JCWWP is a 501(c) 3 created in Justin’s honor and memory and his desire for world Peace. Our mission is to promote and support world Peace through education, mentorship, scholarship, heart screenings, and heart health awareness. 

JCWWP BOARD: Tona’ Broussard, Susan Toler Carr, Darrell Carr, John Sampson, & Greta Wallace   

JCWWP 2020 Missions Accomplished

  1. AED Donations & Free Heart Screenings                
  2. Awarded Student Scholarships
  3. Parent Heart Watch Conference Speaker and PSA’s Participants 
  4. JCWWP Art Exhibit 
  5. Supported Programs for Marginalized Youth
  6. Produced Good Grief Webinar Series & Toolkit

SECURE WAYS to DONATE your Tax-Deductible Contributions to meet our Art, Heart & Peace Goals.

On the Website: ​ ​                     Via Text: Text JC4WP ​ to ​44-321                                         

Via Check:   JCWWP Foundation:  80 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. #333     Sierra Madre, CA.  91024     

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