As executive director of the Children's Home Society of Minnesota from 1969 to 1996, Roger Toogood helped thousands of families grow through foster care and adoptions. A pioneer in international adoptions, he established adoption programs in South Korea, China and other countries.
Toogood died of congestive heart failure at his Roseville home on March 31. He was 87.
He was born in 1934 in Rochester and attended Lourdes High School. He graduated from the then-College of St. Thomas in St. Paul in 1956 with a degree in psychology and earned a master's in social work from the University of Minnesota in 1958.
Toogood's parents both died while he was a freshman in college, his mother by suicide and his father from cancer a month later. In a 2020 Children's Home Society blog post, he said that was a formative experience. Priests at the school were supportive and kind, he reported, but nobody else reached out to him.
"It helped me see how important it is for people to listen and be sympathetic and show compassion," he wrote. "I can't help but think that experience led me to social work because I knew the power of helping others."
He married his high school sweetheart, Marlys Marquardt, in 1955. They moved to Roseville in 1959 and raised four children.
"They were truly a match made in heaven; that is how everyone described them," said their daughter Julie Rethemeier. "They were the perfect complementary pair and both extremely extroverted. They both had a servant's heart."
Toogood spent 10 years doing social work for government and nonprofit agencies before being named executive director of the Children's Home Society.
The Children's Home Society was founded in 1889. When Toogood became executive director in 1969, he had a staff of 13; by the time he retired in 1996, the staff had grown to 436, with more than 1,000 active volunteers, and the budget had increased tenfold, according to Rethemeier.
Toogood helped create public policy and laws for the protection of children, increased the number of services at Children's Home Society and established its international adoption programs in South Korea, Colombia, China, India, Russia and other countries. Marlys, a career nurse who worked in area hospitals and nursing homes, traveled with Toogood on international trips and helped accompany adoptive children.
"Our organization is forever transformed because of Roger's leadership. He adapted to changing times and altered our agency culture for the better, bringing in more openness and inclusion. Roger believed in the power of supporting one child, one home, one life at a time. He continued to demonstrate his commitment and support well beyond his retirement as executive director," wrote Alexis Oberdorfer, president of the Children's Home Society of Minnesota.
The Toogoods devoted many hours of volunteer time to St. Odilia's Church in Shoreview.
"Roger Toogood and his wife, Marlys, would be any pastor's dream. As charter members, they helped bring to reality the dream of a family of faith in Shoreview," the Rev. Phil Rask of St. Odilia said in an e-mail. "Roger once remarked that he had held every leadership position in the leadership of the parish and its organizations and committees except one: the parish's Council of Catholic Women. He said that there are no problems, just hidden opportunities."
Toogood was preceded in death by his wife. In addition to his daughter Julie, he is survived by a son, Mark Toogood; two other daughters, Pamela Hulstrand and Ann Garrett; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Services have been held.
Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926