Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Roderick "Rod" Thornton

Some things are worse than death which means not all deaths may be as tragic as another. There is still the grief of losing a loved one but knowing that they are finally free of misery helps in accepting the loss. At the Billings Clinic Hospital, on November 29, 2023, at the age of 84, Roderick Raymond Thornton was released from a life that had all but ended a few months earlier due to complications resulting from Myasthenia Gravis. Born on June 14, 1939 in Houlton, Maine to Raymond Thornton and Hope Lougee, Rod was the fourth child born to the couple, the baby of the family, and most notably, the hellion.

During Rod's teenage years growing up in Maine, he received the nickname "Crash" because he had a knack for doing just that with his father's vehicles! But his hellion years would not last that long when at the age of 15 he entered the Army National Guard in September 1954. He would be discharged from the guard in 1957 following his high school graduation. Rod would not be done serving his country as he enlisted in the Army in May 1959 relocating him to California, where he would meet Beverly Curry of Stockton California, a fiery red head who stood 14" shorter than him and thought he looked like Elvis Presley. Since Rod was to be deployed to Taiwan in just a few short months, the couple would be wed in August 1959. As Rod left for Taiwan, Bev stayed state side moving to Massachusetts to await the birth of their first child, Cindy Elizabeth in May 1960 after which time, Bev would board a military cargo ship that would transport her and the baby to Taiwan. The three would reside overseas until 1962 when they would return to the bay area of California while Rod did one final year with the Army Reserve, until discharged in February 1963. In March 1965 the young couple's family would increase by one with the birth of their son, Richard Raymond.

Rod's time in the Army had introduced him to the world of radio communications and electronics. He would further that knowledge by going back to school to receive his Federal Communications License through DeVry University as a Radio Telephone Operator with Ship Radar Endorsement, graduating in 1969 continuing a lifelong career in the Radio Communications field. Life in California became less appealing to the young couple, so after answering an ad in a trade magazine, Rod would move his family to Gillette, Wyoming in 1971 during a Thanksgiving blizzard, buying into Collins Communications with Ed Collins. Rod along with two other partners would eventually end up owning the company, becoming leaders of communication services in northeast Wyoming servicing local ranchers, the oilfields, local government and law enforcement agencies and finally the coal mines. In 2001 the partners decided to sell the company and retire.

Unless there was a bottle of Cold Duck or Asti Spumante involved, which could lead to singing, Rod was typically a man of few words. When he did surprise you with something to say, people usually listened as his words were usually insightful. That's not to say he wouldn't be more than willing to engage in intelligent conversation, but it did need to be intelligent. Rod was a natural born engineer, self-taught computer programmer and a skillful woodworker. He had other hobbies including in his younger days, having a private pilot's license, playing the guitar, stock car racing, and hunting. He was always up for reading a good Tom Clancy novel, and later in life he enjoyed time golfing with his son.

The enjoyment he got from woodworking, engineering and designing would lead to building a cabin on property he and his business partners had obtained back when not every business deal resulted in a money transfer but in some cases agreements like a land swap in exchange for a radio system. One such transaction got the men a nice section of land near Keyhole State Park which would eventually develop into a small subdivision known as Lakeview Estates in the town of Pine Haven. In 1996, Rod and his wife would part ways and Rod would reside at that very cabin he had built with his own hands, until his recent death.

Rod is survived by his two children, Cindy (Bob) Bren and Richard Thornton; two grandchildren, Michelle Martin, Brandon (Melissa) Thornton; five great granddaughters, Genevieve, Annika, Kendra, Lilli'n and Sophia; two great-great granddaughters, Emillya and Octayvia; one step-great grandson, Joey (Tiffany) Hall-Evans and one step-great great grandson, Anthony.

Preceding him in death are his parents; two sisters, Penny and Charlene; one brother, Winston; three nephews; one niece and a whole mess of uncles and grandparents.

Rod was never a religious man and his thoughts on death were simple; he didn't really care what you did with him after he died because, well... he would be dead, and it wouldn't matter to him! He did say though, he never wanted to become "worm food". With that in mind, cremation has taken place. A private family celebration of his life will take place later in December. Say not in grief 'he is no more' but in thankfulness that he was.

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