Frank Toner picked up his first nickname when he was about 2, apparently after he told his parents he wasn't Frank anymore. From then on, he wanted to be BoBo.
And that name stuck — until he was 10 or 12 and he ran into a Little League coach in his old hometown, Ventnor, who called him Bootem. Pretty soon, almost everybody was using the new nickname, says Mike Toner Sr., of Egg Harbor Township, Frank’s younger brother.
“That was his name, as far as we were concerned,” Mike says.
But later still, Frank, a longtime Longport resident, picked up yet another name — the Fat Cat. His family thinks he came up with that one himself too, as the nickname he used to handicap horse races at Atlantic City Race Course, one of his favorite places in the world.
That one stuck too. So in his obituary — Frank died suddenly last month, at 68, of an apparent heart attack — his family included two nicknames, Bootem and Fat Cat. Then they heard from really old friends and cousins, saying how sad they were about BoBo dying.
And his family heard a whole lot of condolences on Frank’s death, because he touched lots of lives in lots of ways.
“He was the kind of guy, if he went out to dinner, he would meet the people at the next table,” says his daughter, now Carolyn Polistina, 42, of Egg Harbor Township.
In business, Frank was the longtime owner of Atlantic Coast Alarm Inc., in Mays Landing. He had one partner when it started in 1967. Now the company has about 35 employees and offices in four states, and it’s run by Andrew Toner, Frank’s son, also of Egg Harbor Township. Andrew’s two sisters — the other is Mary Fabietti, of Linwood —are former executives.
In Longport, Frank was a borough commissioner for years. And at points in his busy life, Polistina says, he had three jobs — running his company, refereeing basketball games and handicapping horses professionally.
Frank was a regular for decades at ACRC, in Mays Landing, and others tracks. He especially loved going to Louisville, Ky., for the Kentucky Derby.
The Fat Cat learned the art of handicapping horses from his grandfather, and he particularly enjoyed passing his skills on to his own nine young grandchildren. Polistina has pictures of her oldest son at the track with Frank — before little Vinny was 3 months old.
“Horses were my dad’s passion,” Polistina says, adding that he also owned racehorses most of his adult life.
And now he has gone from being a regular at ACRC to having a permanent place of honor there. Maureen Bugdon, the track’s president, said Friday that after Frank died, the track renamed its VIP room. Now, it’s formally called the Frank Toner Room — and that’s not just a nickname.
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