It is with heavy hearts that we announce the death of Toke Hoppenbrouwers, an exceptional scholar, educator, writer, and lesbian feminist who touched the lives of many with her research, teaching, creative work, and with her exceptionally warm personality.
Toke died at Serenity House residential hospice on June 1, 2023, in Santa Barbara. She was 84 years old.
Toke had lived in Santa Barbara for several years after moving from her home of 30 years in Calabasas, California. Her home at the time of her death was the Maravilla retirement community, which she loved, for its beauty and the friendliness of other residents.
Born near Amsterdam on April 13, 1939, Toke lived a life marked by the passionate pursuit of knowledge.
After completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Utrecht in 1965, Toke left Holland at 26 to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience at UCL, while completing all coursework for the doctorate in clinical psychology.
She had an illustrious career as a researcher and clinical professor of pediatrics at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and as a professor of psychology at California State University, Northridge.
An intrepid researcher and prolific writer, Toke published more than 90 scientific articles, chiefly on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and the book “SIDS” with colleague Joan Hodgman, M.D.
Her research brought her to remote areas of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and her love of adventure and distant cultures was evident in essays published in various literary magazines, including Superstition (Review).
Venturing into creative fiction, Toke wrote the autobiographical novel “Autumn Sea,” published in 1996 and received a Small Press Award.
Toke’s love for science was matched by her love of the arts. Her home was the hub of ongoing gatherings of friends from near and far, salons replete with performances of classical piano, opera, and poetry and fiction readings, and her rooms were filled with sculptures and paintings from a rich variety of cultures and sensibilities.
A passion for her labrador retrievers was the essence of Toke’s life. There were always at least two yellow labs in her home and close to her heart. She became an amateur breeder and nurtured and loved litters of puppies until they were placed with families.
Before placing the puppies, Toke entertained her friends with “puppy brunches” during which the pups sat on laps, slept on toes, and wove in and out of her guests’ legs. Dogs, books, travel and community punctuated her life.
Toke is survived by Alex Miller, her beloved partner of 15 years; an older brother; two younger sisters; six nieces and nephews and their many children; and her great nieces and nephews, all living in the Netherlands.
Toke will be missed by her many, many friends, both in Holland and the United States, some of whom have remained close to her for as long as 60 years. Toke was remarkable in her ability to create and sustain loving relationships.
Many communities of diverse kinds will be significantly diminished with the loss of Toke Hoppenbrouwers: science, medicine, academia, art, literature, lesbian culture, feminism, liberal politics, and humanism. She was the epitome of the Renaissance person.