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Thomas Ray Thornbury

1942 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Thomas Ray Thornbury Obituary
May 11, 1942 - January 8, 2017 Tom Thornbury, engineer and notable businessman who founded several manufacturing companies including one whose medical products helps save babies' lives, died of complications due to ALS on January 8th in Los Angeles. He was 74. Thornbury was born in Dayton, Ohio and grew up in the small town of Harveysburg before moving to nearby Lebanon at the age of 16. He was the eldest of five children. At a young age, he dreamed of being an astronaut and going to space. His family lived close to Neil Armstrong's farm in rural Ohio; one day, he serendipitously met Armstrong who was riding his tractor and got him to sign his autograph on the cover of a Life magazine. It was his dream of being an astronaut that turned into a lifelong passion for astronomy. For decades, Thornbury chased solar eclipses, traveling the world to witness the moment when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth. In Mongolia in 1997, during a total solar eclipse of the sun, he proposed to his wife, Angie, who saw a 'diamond-ring' even though it was snowed in. According to Dr. Ed Krupp, Director of the Griffith Park Observatory who led the expedition, Thornbury was the first person to ever propose to someone during totality. During Griffith Observatory's recent renovation, Thornbury proudly sat on the Board of Directors. Even though he was from a small town, Thornbury had big dreams. At 18, he left home after being accepted to MIT's School of Aeronautical Engineering. That was in the 60s when it was all about plastics and California Dreaming, an era Thornbury loved to discuss in his later years. While he enjoyed MIT and his time spent living at his DKE fraternity house, the draw of sunshine prompted him to drive out west. Thornburytransferred to USC's School of Engineering, but he was not the average student who just attended classes. Adding to his heavy workload at school, Thornbury took a full-time job at North American Aviation working on the Apollo Program, which helped put man on the moon. His work in plastics also took him to Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan for "three long years" while still California Dreaming. Juggling both school and work, Thornbury chose to miss his college graduation, because he said that he "had to go to work." It was not until four decades later when Thornburyofficially received his college diploma. His daughter was graduating from USC's School of Public Health and the two walked down the aisle one after the other. Both received their diplomas that day, but only Thornbury received a standing ovation. Thornbury took great pride in being a Trojan, and, for decades, had season tickets to USC's football games. He and his son, would go to the games to watch and cheer from the sidelines, rain or shine. A month before he passed, his son took him to what would be his last game. On a cold, windy, and rainy Saturday in November, the pair sat in the wheelchair section, Thornbury bundled up, wearing a poncho and beaming as he watched Trojan Adoreé Jackson's 97-yard kick return touchdown beating Notre Dame. In addition to a lifelong strict work ethic and a passion for travel and astronomy, Thornbury loved dinosaurs. He sponsored several dinosaur digs, including an expedition in Montana which unearthed "Thomas" the T. rex and the "Utah Thornbury Dinosaur Expedition," which discovered a well-preserved skeleton of a 150 million-year-old sauropod. Some of the major findings from that expedition are currently featured at the Natural History Museum in downtown Los Angeles. While his hobbies and businesses took him around the world and back, Thornbury stayed grounded with his family and work with three companies based in Valencia, California. Thornbury built all three businesses from the ground up, and they continue to be successful today. Softub, Inc., a portable hot tub company, had humble beginnings, starting in a garage. Today, Softub is a recognized international brand with factories on both coasts and distribution in 50 states and over 30 foreign countries. His second business, which he founded at the same time, is Neotech Products, Inc., a company that makes innovative neonatal, pediatric, and respiratory products, which help save babies' lives. Thornbury's third business is la-Fête Design, an outdoor furniture company he created with his wife Angie. Thornbury lived to go to work five days a week up until his final year of life. Among Thornbury's well-lived life: a speed record-breaking trip on the Concord listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. In the last two decades, Thornbury's interest in F1 racing grew and he began planning trips around the world to watch races in Monaco, Singapore, Hungary, Germany, Montreal, Austria, Australia, England, and Abu Dhabi. Always combining pleasure with business, Thornbury would meet with international business associates from Softub and Neotech, feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment at what had become worldwide businesses. He always said, "If you work hard and you love what you do, you'll be successful." While Thornbury grew up going to church every Sunday (his grandfather was a Baptist minister in Ohio), when he left The Buckeye State for MIT, he stopped attending. In the last two years of his life -- after missing Sunday service for 50 years - Thornbury was welcomed by Westwood Presbyterian Church's Pastor Matthew who "didn't yell at him for the lapse of attendance." In the last couple of years Thornbury was very proud of his perfect attendance. He now will have perfect attendance in the house of the Lord and is probably polishing stars so they can shine brighter every night. Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Wilma Warman and James Thornbury and sister, Bonnie Richey. He is survived by his wife, Angie and children Randy, Cory and Liberté - of Los Angeles, Todd (Stephanie) and grandchildren Winston, Madison and Morgan of Los Angeles, Shane (Lisa ) and grandchildren Nicole, Andrew and Claire of Hemet, California; sisters Pam (Dennis) Wehby of Spring Valley, Ohio, Melody (Roger) Hubley of Mason, Ohio and brother Tim(Diane) of Troy, Ohio and seven nieces and nephews all of Ohio. Thornbury's own ALS may have taken a big blow on a man without limitations for 70 years but he has chosen to help fight the disease for others by donating his brain and spinal cord to science for ALS research. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Cedars-Sinai ALS Clinic: "in memory of Thomas Thornbury" Attn: Paola Werstler, 8700 Beverly Blvd., # 2416, Los Angeles, CA 90048 Memorial Services for Tom Thornbury will be held on Friday, January 20th, 11am at Westwood Presbyterian Church, 10822 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, 90024
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Jan. 15 to Jan. 16, 2017
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