One sunny morning in the early 1980s, a voice boomed from the pulpit and filled the sanctuary at Wright Memorial AME Zion Church in Washington, Pa., the Rev. Kenneth Lee Copeland recalled.
He can't remember even the year now -- only that a passion and sincerity unlike he'd heard before resonated in the Rev. Theodore Brady Thornhill's words.
"When I heard him speak for the first time, it was amazing, and his voice ... it reverberated. He was a powerful preacher.
"He got my attention."
Rev. Thornhill, of Wilkinsburg, a longtime preacher with the AME Zion Church, died Friday after suffering from multiple myeloma, a plasma cell cancer. He was 82.
A native of Oakdale, Rev. Thornhill graduated from Oakdale High School in 1949, and "felt the calling very strong" sometime in his early 20s, his wife, Anna Mae, said.
In 1956, after completing his study and training, Rev. Thornhill was ordained into the AME Zion Church ministry. He worked as a pastor throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, including in McDonald, Oakdale, Uniontown, Braddock, Washington, Aliquippa and Sewickley, often living in the communities where he preached.
By night, for many years, he also supervised the janitorial staff at Gateway Center in Downtown Pittsburgh, Ms. Thornhill said.
In 1979, he met Anna Mae, the woman who would become his second wife -- but not until more than 30 years later. When he proposed, she said, the overture came "basically as a surprise." They wed in 2010.
"Isn't that something?" she said. "We've known each other all these years."
In his free time, Rev. Thornhill liked to read and listen to gospel music. As a child, and into adulthood, he sang in church and was blessed with a strong voice in that respect, too, his wife said.
When Rev. Copeland and other young preachers were searching for guidance as they started their careers, Rev. Thornhill served as a mentor.
"He just told me to be patient and wait on the Lord and He will direct your path," he said.
And years later, Rev. Copeland would share memories with him, taking communion to Rev. Thornhill after he retired in 1997. They would even talk about that day Rev. Copeland first heard his friend speak.
"There's something about that day that I always recall," he said.
"I was just sitting there and listening and I said, 'Wow. ... one day maybe I'll be able to proclaim the gospel like that.' "
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a brother, Franklin Thornhill of McDonald; eight children: Curtis Thornhill of Iowa, Charlene Hendricks of North Carolina, Theodore Thornhill Jr. of Moon, Wendy Hollins of the North Side, Tyran Thornhill of Canonsburg, Troy Thornhill of Moon, Tracy Thornhill of Bridgeville and Kelly Thompson of North Braddock; and a stepdaughter, Robin Shaffer-Jones of Penn Hills.
Visitation is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Watts Memorial Chapel in Braddock. A memorial service will follow at Nyia Page Community Center, Braddock.
Molly Born: email@example.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede.