Obituary: William Thornton / Westinghouse manager, church organist

Oct. 6, 1925 - Jan. 1, 2006

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For his livelihood, William Thornton was a contract manager for Westinghouse Corp., but to feed his soul, Mr. Thornton played the organ.

Mr. Thornton, who had formerly lived in Sewickley Heights Manor and was living in The Woodlands at St. Barnabas in Valencia, died Sunday at UPMC Passavant. He had suffered a stroke and heart attack, and from pneumonia, kidney failure and diabetes. Several smaller strokes had made it difficult to play the organ in his last years.

He worked for Westinghouse for more than two decades and lived in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida and Indiana. He retired in 1986 and moved to Florida. After 12 years there, he and his wife, Beverly, returned to the Pittsburgh area.

Through the years, Beverly Thornton helped him find jobs or volunteer work playing church organs, from pipe organs to a portable organ at Easter sunrise services on a Florida beach. He began taking piano lessons at age 5, but he never completed a music degree.

He and his wife, who were married for 57 years, met while Mrs. Thornton was working at a soda fountain in Baltimore, where she overheard Mr. Thornton talking about playing the organ. Mrs. Thornton, who was taking organ lessons at the time, asked to hear him play.

Mr. Thornton was born in Scotland, but his family moved to the United States when he was 6.

Besides his wife, Mr. Thornton is survived by two daughters, Wendy Gillette of Indianapolis and Terri Hammerschmitt of McCandless; a grandson; and a great-granddaughter.

Arrangements were by McDonald-Aeberli Funeral Home, Mars.


Eleanor Chute can be reached at echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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