Family, friends, viewers celebrate life of Todd Tongen

Veteran journalist covered South Florida for three decades

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. - Family, friends and colleagues celebrated the life of Local 10 anchor and reporter Todd Tongen at a memorial service Saturday in Pembroke Pines.

Todd was found dead Monday at his home in Southwest Ranches.  His family said that Todd took his own life, fearing he had Lewy body dementia, the same affliction that claimed the life of his mother in August 2017. He was 56.

Many of the speakers Saturday addressed his suicide head-on, hoping Todd's story will inspire others to get help before it's too late.

"No one knows what demons you were fighting because you hid it from us. Maybe you were dealing with shame, self-loathing as we all do at some or many points in our lives,"  said Dr. Scott Tongen, Todd's brother. "Regardless of what it was, you should have told the ones you loved, the ones who loved you. Maybe you thought the world would be better off without you. … You were wrong little brother."

Todd covered South Florida for WPLG for three decades, working as a weatherman and reporter and most recently co-anchoring the station’s weekend morning shows. For years, he hosted a popular segment called "10 Taxi" where he would interview celebrities and newsmakers while driving a retro cab.

Zoo Miami's Ron Magill told a story about how during one of the first "Taxi 10" segments, Todd encouraged him to put a cheetah in the back seat, which the cheetah promptly ate. Todd was overjoyed with the ridiculous turn of events, Magill said.

Like Magill, other speakers at the service shared about Todd's infectious spirit, his sense of humor and his warmth.

"How hard it must have been to be the guy who felt it was his job to make us laugh. A tremendous gift, a tremendous responsibility,"  Local 10 News reporter Michael Putney said. "But oh, how he could it do it. Totally unpretentious. He made us examine our own pretentions. Todd had none. He was always wonderfully himself. Like no other. I loved him."

Neki Mohan, Todd's weekend co-anchor, lightened the mood by appearing onstage in a turkey costume. It was the same one Neki and Todd wore on air last year for a charity food drive.

"Tongen was one of a kind. They broke the mold when they made him ... He brought a lot of experience. He made me a better person. I brought a lot of a costumes and jerk chicken festivals. And somehow it worked," she said of their 10-year partnership.  

He is survived by his wife, Karen, sons, Tyler and Ryker, and brothers. Todd's family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, a donation be made to the Lewy Body Dementia Association.

The Lewy Body Dementia Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of, supporting people with and promoting scientific advances of lewy body dementia.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255. The Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 crisis support by text. Text 741741 to be connected to a trained counselor.

Watch the full service below:

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