Seymour I. Toll, 93, WWII vet who fought in Battle of the Bulge

Seymour Irving Toll, 93, of Bala Cynwyd, a prominent lawyer and Army veteran who wrote openly about being injured in the Battle of the Bulge, died on Tuesday, June 5, at his home.

Camera icon The Toll Family
Seymour Irving Toll

A Philadelphia native, born in 1925, Mr. Toll graduated from Central High School in 1942 and worked on a dairy farm for six months before serving in the Army as a combat infantryman in Luxembourg and western Germany. Mr. Toll initially applied to join the Navy, but was rejected for having “flat feet” after the recruiter learned he was Jewish, his family said.

On the first night of the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, the then-19-year-old was wounded in his right arm and then was hospitalized for four months in Europe — a seminal event in his life, relatives said. Mr. Toll was honorably discharged and was awarded the Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

“He viewed every day after that as a gift. He never understood why his life was spared,” said daughter Martha.

For decades, Mr. Toll rarely recounted the traumas of war. He only began speaking about and writing about his experiences in World War II in columns in the Inquirer about 10 years ago, at the request of his eight grandchildren.

Mr. Toll received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Yale College and graduated from Yale Law School in 1951, the year he married an editor at Harper & Row, Jean Barth. He worked at several law firms before co-founding his own trial and appellate practice, Toll & Ebby, with partner Stuart Ebby in 1975.

Known for his impressive oratory skills and flair for drama, Mr. Toll often used Greek mythology in his arguments to captivate and charm jurors.

Ebby said Mr. Toll during closing statements once recounted the legend of Procrustes, a Greek bandit who forced people to conform onto an iron bed by stretching their legs and arms. Mr. Toll’s client was acquitted thanks to his moving arguments, Ebby said.

“He was a fabulous lawyer,” Ebby said. “He had a way of putting things in terms everyone could understand. When he talked to the jury, they knew he was telling the straight story.”

“He spoke eloquently and accurately  and could connect with anyone,” said daughter Emily. “He viewed the courtroom as theater.”

Camera icon The Toll Family
Seymour Irving Toll

From 1978 to 1986, Mr. Toll taught trial advocacy at the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Outside of court, Mr. Toll read books to the blind at Philadelphia’s Library for the Blind, and was public director of the executive committee of the Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. from 1967 to 1972.

He always started his mornings with a jog. In 2011, he wrote a piece for the Inquirer about his habit of picking up litter while running five miles on a road near his coastal summer home in Phippsburg, Maine.

Camera icon The Toll Family
Seymour Irving Toll

A prolific writer, Mr. Toll published more than 100 editorials and articles, mainly about the “Lost Generation,” the war, and his family. He wrote two books, including Zoned American, a 1969 history book that drew on his interest in city planning and architecture. Frustrated with uninspiring legal news reported in the Legal Intelligencer, Mr. Toll began contributing a weekly column called “The Retainer” to the newspaper in the 1970s.

Relatives say Mr. Toll was a lifelong learner with many hobbies, including photography, cooking, and skiing.

At age 73, Mr. Toll picked up piano lessons under teacher Stephanie Ben-Salem of the Settlement Music School after playing briefly as a child and adult. Mr. Toll was an avid Mozart fan with an “incredible ear” and vast collection of music, his family said.

In addition to his daughters, Mr. Toll is survived by daughters Elizabeth and Connie; two sisters; and eight grandchildren.  His wife, Jean, died in 1999.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 10, at the Baldwin School, 701 Montgomery Ave., Bryn Mawr.

Contributions may be made to the Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19107, or the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 1500 Spring Garden St,, Suite 230, Philadelphia, Pa. 19130.