In Memoriam : Richard Thornton

Richard Thornton Richard Lee Thornton - age: 80
(February 08, 1933 to May 23, 2013 )
Resident of Redwood Valley, California

Richard Lee Thornton passed away on May 23, 2013 at his home in Redwood Valley. He is survived by his loving wife of 43 years, Bonnie, his children Terry Thornton of Portland OR, Pat Thornton of Redwood Valley, Mike Thornton of Jacksonville OR, Sheri Marrin of San Antonio TX, Richard H. Thornton of Sparks, NV, grandchildren Kelsey Thornton of Eagle Point OR, Breanne Thornton of Portland OR, Jessica Thornton of Jacksonville OR, Sydney and Sasha Marrin of San Antonio TX, Marissa Kreeger of Santa Rosa and Alex Koozer of Ukiah.

Dick was born in Ukiah in 1933, the son of Marjorie and Harold L. Thornton. Following the untimely death of his father while Dick was still an infant, the family moved Geyserville for several years, eventually returning to Ukiah with his mother and stepfather Warren Lampson, and his stepbrother Warren L. “Les” Lampson, whose family has remained close to Dick throughout the years.

At about age 12, Dick was apprenticed at H. D. Roberts Jewelers in Ukiah, where he learned the art of watch and clock repair. This was a skill that would stay with him all his life, becoming a hobby and an avocation throughout his career and retirement. He was known as a wizard of antique clock repair, restoring many families' treasured heirlooms to working condition.

Dick graduated from Ukiah High School in 1951. Following graduation he worked at various jobs in the area before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953. He received basic training in San Luis Obispo, and was assigned to the Signal Corp in West Point, NY, serving until 1955.

Dick married his high school sweetheart, Sharleen M. Shephard in 1954. The couple lived in Ukiah for 13 years and raised their 3 sons, Terry, Pat and Mike. Dick worked in the woods for a logging company for a time, then as a furniture warehouseman for H & H Furniture Co. in Ukiah for several years. In 1958 he began his land surveying career, working for Frank McGuire. He joined the California State Division of Highways, later CalTrans, in 1962 and worked in many capacities including surveying, construction and design engineering for the next 33 years. He achieved state certification in land surveying and retired as a survey party chief in the Mendocino County area in 1995.

In 1970, Dick married Bonnie J. Hanson, the love of his life for over 43 years, and became a father to her children Sheri and Richie. Dick & Bonnie made their home in Ukiah, and later in Redwood Valley, welcoming children, grandchildren, friends and relatives over the years with warmth and hospitality.

A lifelong automotive enthusiast, Dick was involved in the early Hot Rod scene in the 1950's, as well as its more recent nostalgic revival. He was a charter member of the National Hot Rod Association, and built and raced quarter-midget cars at the Ukiah Fairgrounds in the 1960's. He owned and built many motorcycles over the years, with emphasis on classic British bikes. During his retirement, he often exhibited his 1927 Ford roadster at local car shows, and thoroughly enjoyed talking to fellow car buffs about their machines. He also enjoyed attending drag racing and sprint car events.

Dick was proud of being a 4th generation Mendocino County resident, tracing his family's history in the area back to the mid-1800's He was keenly interested in local history and was active in local historical circles. He was a contributor of information, photos and stories to the Mendocino County Historical Society and to several books and publications about local history.

Dick filled his retirement years with many activities, including travel with friends to Mexico & Panama, car shows and projects. He was a loving and supportive mentor to his children, grandchildren and often to the grandchildren of close friends. He gave many of them their first lessons and experience with motor vehicles, whether it be minibikes, motorcycles, boats or cars. He was always willing to lend a hand to a friend with an automotive project or repair, bringing to bear his skills in welding, fabrication and troubleshooting.

Dick valued his relationships with his lifelong friends, and kept in close touch with as many as possible, attending informal get togethers over coffee as well as monthly lunch club meetings, where they would regale each other with local historical facts and stories from their youth, to the enjoyment of all who listened.

Dick was loved and respected by all who knew him, and will be greatly missed. A private memorial celebration of Dick's life will be held in accordance with his wishes.