Obituary: Former La Center Mayor Greg Thornton remembered

Gregory L. Thornton, a dedicated American, outdoorsman, and community leader known for his love of "Big Iron," his role as La Center's mayor, and his enduring spirit, passes away at 67 after battling chronic liver disease and pancreatic cancer.
Greg Thornton

Thornton succumbed to chronic liver disease on July 21 after battling pancreatic cancer

Gregory Louis Thornton

01/16/1956 – 07/21/2023

An ardent lifelong fan of John Wayne movies, Neil Young and the Minnesota Vikings along with being a loving, compassionate and proud American, it’s with heavy hearts we announce the passing of Gregory L. Thornton of La Center, Washington at the age of 67. He succumbed to chronic liver disease after battling pancreatic cancer.

Greg was born in Duluth, Minnesota and raised in the small city of Hibbing located in Saint Louis County. He graduated from Hibbing High School in 1974 and received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a minor in Finance from the University of Minnesota.

After college, Greg moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he worked for Crist Machinery in the parts department and quickly became a sales rep selling equipment throughout New Mexico. Several years later, Greg decided to move to Anchorage, Alaska and subsequently Fairbanks, where he sold heavy equipment from Ketchikan to Barrow for about five years before returning to Albuquerque. Greg was working with his former brother-in-law Frank Butler, building houses, when he met his future wife Julie in 1988. From Albuquerque, Greg went with Julie on her assignments in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, FBI Headquarters and Portland, Oregon, where they lived in Calabasas, California, Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Manassas, Virginia and La Center, Washington, respectively. He spent most of his career employed as a heavy equipment salesman for various machinery equipment dealers; a heavy equipment auction territory representative for Forke and Ritchie Auctioneers; established and owned Greg L. Thornton, A Valuation & Consulting Service as a CSA Certified Machinery & Equipment Appraiser for several years while also serving as a La Center planning commissioner, planning commissioner chair, council member and mayor.

Greg loved selling and valuing “Big Iron.” He loved being outdoors whether it was barbequing (specifically salmon and steaks), hunting, fishing, gardening or just mowing grass on his and Julie’s 5 ½ acres in La Center; he likened it to just having more “windshield time” to mull over pressing issues throughout the years. In addition, he was known for making his property look like a park. Greg also loved serving the residents of La Center as their mayor for seven years as well as a council member and a planning commissioner in previous years. He was proud of all of the professional staff he and the consultants help bring to the city as well as the much-needed changes to the antiquated administrative systems. Greg would tell family and friends that the hardest he ever worked was serving the city of La Center in his different government roles. He was very proud of bidding on and purchasing at auction the old TDS building under the City Council’s approved budget amount as well as the moment he obtained grant money to aide in renovation of the new City Hall that enabled the consolidation of staff into one building and would be usable for the city council and staff for many years to come. Greg made a positive impact in so many ways. His joy was his family and the many special friendships he maintained throughout the years.

He was famous for saying, “Don’t worry. Be happy” and lived by Winston Churchill’s motto, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Greg was a man of God and his favorite verse from Psalm 23: 1-6, “The Lord is my Shepherd” comforted him through the hard battles he faced, especially during and up to his passing. It was important to Greg to renew his wedding vows with Julie after being married for 28 years so that their marriage could be blessed by the Catholic church. On July 16 of this year, Greg and Julie renewed their wedding vows at their home with Father David of the Saint Philip Catholic Church in Woodland officiating, enabling Greg to receive the last sacrament which brought him peace and happiness.

Greg is survived by his loving partner of 35 years and wife of 28 years, Julia Dugger “Julie” Thornton; step-daughter Christy Knowles Hartline; siblings Jerry & his wife Petra Thornton, Carrie & her husband Mark Harris, and Mary & her husband Michael Enich; brother-in-law Floyd & his wife Chris Dugger, and brother-in-law Bryon & his wife Dawn Dugger; nephews Jeremy Thornton, Jason Thornton, Max Harris, Sterling Ulrich, Max Staples, Sean Dugger and Bryce Dugger; nieces Lindsay Kritz, Emily Enich, Brooke Anna Harris, Amber Dugger, Brittany Ianneo, Dawnna Salisbury, Falishia Bare, and their spouses.

Greg was preceded in death by his parents, Gerald J. Thornton, Sr, and Marjorie B. “Bernie” (Ahachich) Thornton.

Greg’s rosary will be held on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023 at 10:30 a.m., to be followed by his service at 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s of Guadalupe in Ridgefield, Washington. A Celebration of Life will be held in his honor on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023 at 10 a.m. at the La Center City Hall.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation “In Memoriam” to:

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Tunnels to Towers

The family would like to send a special “Thank You” to all the doctors and nurses involved in Greg’s care during the past few years with a special thanks to the amazing nurses, nursing aides and the entire team with PeaceHealth SW Hospice and CLT at Home.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Thornton family.

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