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Michael Tosha, actor, producer for O'Connell & Co. May 23, 1961 -- Feb. 14,2009

Michael A. Tosha, an actor and associate producer with O'Connell & Co., died unexpectedly Feb. 14 in a Cleveland hotel, from heart failure. He was 47.

Mr. Tosha was born in Alliance, Ohio, and grew up in Ontario, Calif. He got his theatrical start as a child actor in opera and did early stage work at the Ontario Community Theatre. Mr. Tosha acted on Los Angeles stages, had a role in "North and South," the ABC miniseries that aired in the mid-1980s, and toured with Princess Cruise Lines.

Mr. Tosha came to Buffalo four years ago, quickly attaching himself to O'Connell & Co. He performed in numerous productions, including "Passion," "Listen to My Heart," "Buffalo Zings," "Musical of Musicals" and most recently, "The Andrews Brothers."

Mr. Tosha also taught drama and directed school plays at St. Amelia's School, sang in the choir at Lafayette Presbyterian Church and until recently was stage manager at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda.

He was in Cleveland for a regularly scheduled cardiology visit at the Cleveland Clinic two days earlier.

"Michael was a wonderful guy," said Mary Kate O'Connell of O'Connell & Co. "He was kind and tolerant and fiercely loyal. He was also very private in many ways, and dealt with ongoing health issues with calm and dignity.

"He was truly my right hand and my rock. In many ways, O'Connell & Co. is a family, and as a family we feel we've lost a brother."

Tim Newell directed Mr. Tosha in "Passion," his first performance with the company. He recalled the actor's first audition:

"We were in desperate need of guys at the time, and this gentleman walked in who we didn't know from a can of paint. He was awkward, nervous, herky-jerky, and we didn't know what to make of it, and then out from this man came this incredible voice like I have never heard in these parts. It just blew us away."

Newell said Mr. Tosha's death was a great personal loss.

"He was always there, always with a smile, always with a positive outlook on some of the darkest things, with a cynical edge and an ironic laugh. He was a good shoulder to cry on if need be, and one of the best."

Joseph Nocera, Mr. Tosha's roommate, said, "He was really friendly and generous, just a funny, outgoing person . . . He was amazing."

Survivors include his mother, Barbara Nyardi Tosha Gansel; father, Gordon Gansel; and brothers Jeffrey, Joseph and Stephen.

A memorial service is being planned.

Mark Sommer

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