A life of fitness cut shortPublished 11:31am Friday, November 2, 2012
Personal trainer, AHS grad dies suddenly at 35
Former Austinite Steven Toms led the epitome of a healthy lifestyle. All who knew the personal trainer could attest: He didn’t drink or smoke, and kept a nutritious diet at all times.
“His doctor told him he was the healthiest person he’d ever seen,” said Charlotte Andersen, a Shape Magazine writer who had worked with Steve. “I think that’s why his death was such a shock to everybody … Most of us thought it was a joke.”
Steven Michael Toms, 35, died suddenly at his home in Prior Lake Tuesday. The husband, father and friend was a dedicated trainer with Lifetime Fitness for much of his career, and put those around him first, client or not. Steve had been married less than a year to his wife, Ashley, and was looking forward to raising his 2 year-old son, Jameson, before he died from what may have been heart problems, his mother, Lisa Toms, suspects.
“He was in perfect shape,” his mom said. “He did everything. He had so many friends.”
Steve grew up in Austin an only child to Roger and Lisa Toms, and wasted no time indulging in his love for fitness and sports. During his time at Austin High School, he played on the football, baseball and hockey teams, and was a captain on all three, said his cousin Lindsey Pratt. He left Austin after graduating to pursue a football scholarship at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.
In his career, he traveled around, helping set up new fitness centers and providing personal training. For about three years before he got married, he trained the Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders.
While lifting weights at the gym one day, Steve met Ashley Danielson. He became her trainer, and then her husband in November 2011.
When Andersen first met him, Steve told her he wanted to see how many pushups she could do in one minute. She got down on the floor and pumped out as many as she could, only to stop amid snickers from the other gym workers. Several minutes had passed, and they wanted to see how long she would keep going.
“He was sort of famous for being the gym prankster,” Andersen said.
But packaged along with his sense of humor was a kind heart. Steve made a point of helping out those around him, whether or not it would benefit him personally. One time he helped Andersen find sources for a magazine story, simply because she mentioned needing them. It was just the way he was.
“He kept coming up with stories for me, things to write about, people to interview,” Andersen said.
He was equally good to his family.
“When I was little, he drove me around everywhere,” Pratt said. “He was always so caring.”
Steve was always willing to help someone, even if it was a total stranger. All who knew him said he’d readily give the shoes off his feet to anyone who needed them. He once worked extensively with a woman who had become paraplegic after a car accident in Salt Lake City. With his help, she regained control of her legs and made a full recovery.
“He just wanted to help her get her life back,” Andersen said. “It didn’t matter who you were, he would learn your name and even remember it months later. He made everyone feel special. He made everybody feel like somebody.”
Andersen said Steve used to be a big partier, but he cleaned up his life to be a good role model for his son and his clients. He was an evangelical Christian and active at his church. In his free time, he coached little league football.
Though Andersen had met him less than a year ago, she had come to know Steve so well she wrote a blog entry about his passing. By the time friends and family showed up at Steve’s visitation on Thursday, more than 100 people had commented on Andersen’s post offering their condolences. Many said they were moved to tears by her depiction of Steve, even though they had never met him.
Toward the end of his life, Steve settled in Lakeville so he could be close to his ill mother, Lisa Toms. Lisa has a bad heart, and often Steve would encourage her to get better for her grandson.
“Mom, you need to get well to be here for Jameson,” Steve would say, according to Lisa.
Lisa said she believes the same issue arose with her son. Steve’s heart has been sent for testing, but another week will pass before the results are in.
In the meantime, his mom expects close to a thousand people to attend Steve’s funeral. The service will be held at 1 p.m. today at River Valley Church, 14898 Energy Park in Apple Valley, with visitation an hour before. Dan Blustin, general manager at Lifetime Fitness in Lakeville, said his gym is holding an event after the funeral where those who knew Steve can spend time together and reminisce.
“If you met him, you’d never forget him,” Lisa said.