Lester I. Thornton

Friday, June 16, 2017

Lester I. Thornton, 92, Nevada, passed away on Tuesday, June 13, at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, following a brief illness. Lester was born October 17, 1924, in Ocie, Mo., to Ruic Harve and Smitha Jane “Jennie” (Braly) Thornton. On June 4, 1946, Lester was united in marriage to Carolyn J. Gray on the lawn of The Wayside, the Gray Family home in the Ellis Community and she survives of the home.

Lester was born in Ocie and reared near Protem, Taney County, Mo. He attended grade school in Protem and Forsythe, and after finishing the eighth grade at the age of 11, Lester lived as a boarding student at the School of the Ozarks and graduated high school there at the age of 14. He attended the University of Missouri for a time but took time out of his studies to serve as a clerk in the United States Army near the end of World War II. Following the service, he returned to his studies at the University of Missouri and received a degree in Vocational Agriculture. Lester’s first teaching position was in Elkland, Mo. He taught Ag in Elkland, Nixa and Stockton where he also began his career in the University of Missouri Extension Service. Lester served as the “Balanced Farming Agent” in Stockton and Nevada until 1962.

Lester answered the call to the ministry and in 1962 began working on his Master’s in Theology at St. Paul Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. He served in many churches including the United Methodist Church in Archie, Mt. Zion Methodist Church and Ohio St. UMC in Butler, UMC in Passaic, UMC in Savannah, UMC in Amazonia, the Amazonia United Church of Christ, United Presbyterian Church in Savannah (all part of the ecumenical Crossroads Parish), Mt. Washington UMC in Independence, Mo., and Versailles and Glensted United Methodist Churches. Lester served as an associate pastor in Fort Scott and Nevada, and interim pastor at numerous area churches in Missouri and Kansas. On top of his ministry work, Lester also took on the duties of manager of the Wayside Farm, Inc. (the Gray Family Farm) for 50 years.

As well as his membership in the United Methodist Church in Nevada, he was also a member at various times of Lions Club, Rotary Club and Nevada Library Board. He was president, chaplain and member of numerous Ministerial Alliances, Sertoma Savannah, and a regular member of the McDonald’s 9 a.m. Coffee Club. He also mentored or led various 4-H and Future Farmers of America groups.

In addition to his wife Carolyn, of the home, survivors include four children, Michael H. Thornton, Nevada, Shirley Garnett, Nevada, Mark Thornton and his wife, Joan, Plano, Texas, and Susan Thornton, Nevada; seven grandchildren, Penny Rowlett and her husband, Ralph, Windsor, Mo., Michael Patrick Thornton and his wife, Jessica, Nevada, Kevin Garnett and his wife, Barbara, Winchester, Ill., Les Thornton, Nevada, Chris Aldridge, Plano, Texas, Alison Aldridge, Austin, Texas, Johnathan Thornton, M.D., Dallas, Texas; 13 great-grandchildren, Marilyn, Brianna, Shelbie, Elizabeth, Jerron, Michaella, Nathan, Matthew, Austin, Tyler, Haley, Layla and Carter; three great-great-grandchildren, Avery, Aubriana and Aspen; numerous nieces and nephews; one brother, Paul Thornton, Mt. Vernon, Mo.; and one sister, Opal Thomas, Springfield, Mo. He was preceded in death by his parents; an infant daughter, Marilyn Jane; daughter-in-law, Jenny Thornton; and brother, Glenn Thornton.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 17, at the United Methodist Church in Nevada with the Rev. Sharon Freeman officiating and the Rev. Melvin West delivering the Eulogy. Interment will follow in Newton Burial Park in Nevada. Friends may call now and until the hour of service at Ferry Funeral Home in Nevada.

Memorials are suggested to Heifer International or the Church or Charity of your choice in care of Ferry Funeral Home.

You may view obituary and send condolences online at www.ferryfuneralhome.com.