Toni Cline leaves a legacy of yoga, love, philanthropy

Toni Cline leaves a legacy of yoga, love, philanthropy

Mother, wife, model, entrepreneur, community advocate, philanthropist — Toni Cline was not a woman whose passions or interests could be defined singularly.

She was a multifaceted woman who loved many people, took on many challenges and touched many lives.

The former Amarillo College Foundation board member, patron of the Amarillo arts and beloved yoga instructor died Nov. 17 after battling small-cell lung cancer. She was 73.

Cline worked professionally as a spokeswoman, model and actress throughout the 1960s and 1970s — most prominently as the spokeswoman for the Western Company, where she helped make famous the tagline “If you don’t have an oil well, get one!” — and was involved with a program for students in the fourth through eighth grades called Kids in the Know. She also contributed to the Amarillo Globe-News Empty Stocking Fund, and was touched by the life of the late Monsignor Joseph Tash of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church.

“She was a hippie,” said Patty Schneider, Cline’s friend of more than 35 years. “She loved life and she was able to do so many things with her ranching, teaching the Belles how to bow (which) she took so very seriously … then, of course, there was her yoga life. When she first started teaching yoga, people still didn’t understand it and there was this sort of ooga-booga feeling about yoga … and she just kept on teaching.”

The two met when their daughters were in kindergarten and developed a strong friendship over the years.

“Dealing with our children’s lives, we had the chance to get to know each other. We worked together on (school) committees,” Schneider said. “Then we became the sort of friends that confide in each other. She was my friend I could talk to about anything and know that it would never be spoken to anyone else; we had that comfort of confidence between each other.”

Schneider described Cline as a very good mom, vibrant, positive, sweet, strong, professional, and a wonderful friend with a whimsical sense of humor.

“I want to tell her how badly I feel right now and how sad I am, but she’s not here to tell,” she said. “She was the sort of person that always made you feel better about yourself. Having Toni as a friend was like having a cheerleader. She was the kind of friend I could be so open with and I knew that nothing would cause her to like me any less.”

Julie Mitchell is also feeling the deep loss of losing the friend she forged a lasting friendship with since the two met in Lamaze class.

“We were having our first children in 1976…I just looked at her and thought she was the most beautiful person I’d ever laid my eyes on and we became closest friends from that time on,” she said.

They would go on to become godmothers to each other’s children, who would be raised with a close connection. The two would also ultimately become business partners, opening The Yoga Mat in Wolflin Square.

“We, together with two more women, opened The Yoga Mat … and it was a really, really fun time for the four of us,” Mitchell said. “Of course, Toni was the inspiration for it all because I think she taught yoga for more than 40 years.”

Mitchell said Cline was “one of the most special people you’d ever meet,” and described her as gracious, elegant, engaging, and kind to everyone, with a spirit that was filled with joy.

“She’s going to stay with me forever,” she said. “I love her dearly and I’m going to miss her so much I can’t even put it into words. I keep thinking I’m going to call her and I’m just so sad because (I can’t). She just glowed with love and light. She was beautiful inside and out.”

Mitchell said even after Cline’s cancer diagnosis, her spirit never wavered.

“She battled cancer for about a year and was so very brave. She always made me feel like she was going to be completely healthy and well again,” Mitchell said. “We talked all of the time and she would tell me, ‘Julie, I’m going to beat this, I’m going to get through this next round and I’m going to be OK.’

“She was always so positive … she really, really fought it.”

Despite the viciousness of the disease, Cline reportedly died peacefully, surrounded by her family.

“Since last December, she put up a courageous battle and there were several times we thought she was going to beat it, but she succumbed to this horrible illness,” said Richard Cline, Toni’s husband of 17 years.

“She was sweet to everybody; it didn’t matter who you were. She always had a big smile on her face and always talked about the other person very lovingly. She was also very philanthropic.”

Richard Cline said his wife had an impact on everyone who was around her.

“We’d be walking someplace and I’d be noticing all of these people smiling at me, and it was just wonderful, then I’d realize Toni was in front of me smiling at all of them,” he said.

Of all the roles Cline had, the one her son Sundance Banks relishes the most is that of protector and mother.

“We had a ranch just outside of Boys Ranch called Cheyenne Station — my mom went into the cattle business for a while,” Banks said. “This was in the ’80s around the time ‘Crocodile Dundee’ came out. We were walking back from the pond to the main house and there was this tree with this porcupine with her little porcupine babies. My mom stopped us, because some porcupines can throw their quills, and she very peacefully said, ‘Momma Porcupine, we need to walk by to get home. We think you’re beautiful and special but we’d like it if you’d let us pass,’ and I swear that porcupine crawled down from the tree and scurried. My buddy was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, your mom is like Crocodile Dundee.’”

That’s one of Banks’ fondest memories of his mother, whom he described as kind with a good spirit and who loved to listen to other people.

“She was so empathetic without even having to try,” he said. “She had a kindness and an energy that was uncommon and different than your average person when they’re trying to be nice. She went above and beyond in a way that made people feel easy around her,” he said.

Banks said he admired his mother’s leadership qualities, particularly as she championed women’s equality and women’s rights causes.

“She taught me how to stand up for what you believe in and to care about society and people,” he added.

Toni Cline’s daughter, Brandi Turner, said her yoga teachings were about kindness, love and respect as much as they were about physical fitness.

“The thing that was so inspirational about Mom was that everybody that she met felt like they learned some little life lesson from her,” Turner said. “A big part of her personality was this concept of teaching yoga and teaching people how to tap into their inner being and sharing the principals of yoga.

“It’s amazing the impact that one person can have. Whoever said one person couldn’t change the world never met Toni Cline. She really approached life as every moment was an opportunity to make a positive impact on another person, on faith, on the planet.”

A funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at St. Andrews Church, 1601 S. Georgia St., with the Rev. Andrew Parker and the Rev. Robert Pace officiating. A reception and celebration of life will then be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at Amarillo Botanical Gardens, 1400 Streit Drive.

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