GLOUCESTER, MA - Craig Toftey, 73, died June 18, 2017, at home in Gloucester, where he had lived for well over half his life. He was born in Iowa on May 25, 1944, and grew up on the Toftey family farm near the town of Belmond, Iowa. He was the oldest of three children. He leaves his mother, Donna, and brothers, Bruce and Brian.
Craig was proud of his mid-western Norwegian family heritage, and he understood the value of the diversified skills he learned as a youth on the farm. Yet throughout his life he sought opportunities and established connections well beyond his origins. He was educated at the University of Iowa, where he majored in Urban and Regional Planning. After college, in the late 1960s, he joined the Peace Corps and worked in the city of Salvador, in the state of Bahia, Brazil. Craig immersed himself in the experience, becoming fluent in the Portuguese language and forming a deep lifelong affection for Brazilian peoples, culture, and music.
Returning to the United States, he lived for a time in central Washington State, working as a design draftsman. He then followed his desire to live along the coast; moving to Seattle, then Boston, then settling permanently in Gloucester in the early 1970s. Initially, he did outreach work in the Portuguese community. Soon, he refocused on architectural design work in the office of Donald Monell, one of Cape Ann's leading architects at the time. His work with Monell included the Sawyer Free Library main building, completed in the mid 1970s.
Craig continued his planning and architectural design career for more than another 40 years, bettering the built environment of Cape Ann and establishing a significant legacy of work. Many agree, his crowning achievement is Gloucester's Head of the Harbor, featuring the Gordon Thomas (Waterfront) Park. The direction of this controversial project ultimately yielded to Craig's persistent efforts to preserve the public vista of the inner harbor and Ten Pound Island beyond, while still providing operational space for multiple fish-processing facilities. Other plans for redeveloping the site would have allowed a continuous wall of industrial structures, blocking the water view entirely. The ultimate success of his initiative owed much to his site-planning expertise and grasp of opportunities which could not be easily perceived without his exacting spatial analysis.
Other work included Gloucester's Main Street (streetscape planning and way-finding graphics), Gloucester's I4-C2 Site (waterfront planning and public-access advocacy), Gloucester's Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce (re-use design), the Lynchburg Virginia High School Adaptive Re-use (low-income family housing), the Washington DC National Air & Space Museum (Apollo exhibit), numerous commercial exhibits (trade shows in Chicago, Las Vegas and European venues), and many custom residential projects for private clients. For much of this work, Craig collaborated closely with fellow design professionals. He was admired for his creative approach, attention to detail, and problem-solving tenacity. A colleague and repeat client for major projects recently praised Craig's "real talent."
Meanwhile, in mid-career, Craig "bought a distressed sub-division overlooking the ocean, de-subdivided it (yes, "de"), and pitched a tent to enjoy the view," this colleague added.
While fortunate in his achievements, Craig's outlook may be the more noteworthy thing. He always seemed to be "looking for the next interesting way to see and understand the world," a friend observed. His most outstanding gift may have been his capacity for almost-gleeful enjoyment of simple pleasures: his Norwegian Elkhound "Bjorna," surf casting off the back shore, socializing, playing handball at the Y, appreciating Cape Ann's luminous light and salt air, listening to a new jazz recording, or discovering a new tool for his work.
Craig Toftey is well-remembered for his imagination, curiosity, talent, hard work, loyalty, generosity, and sociable nature, and especially, his principled advocacy for Gloucester, the city he chose, his favorite place and lifetime home.
Published on February 13, 2018