A chair will sit empty in the Carthage Pro Shop now.

A chair will sit empty in the Carthage Pro Shop now.

Friends, Carthage has lost one great man, but it’s my hope that his character will not be forgotten. Walter Thornberry passed away last week, and I mourn this loss. He was one of the kindest, most honest and genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. In my days in later high school and early college, I worked at the Carthage Golf Course. And Mr. Thornberry, or “the Governor” as we all called him, would pull up in that ole’ t-bird and come into the pro shop. Just about twice a day in the summertime, I would always look forward to his visits.

He would come in and sit in this chair, which everyone knew was for him. If someone else was sitting there when he came in, they would get up. No question. That was how much we all loved and respected him.

You could pretty much rely on this man to come in, walk up to the snack bar and, in the morning, get a muffin and a cup of coffee. In the afternoon he would order, “one of them diet Snickers Ice Cream bars,” and he would emphasize the “diet,” with a smile. He sure did enjoy life and all the little pleasures that went with it.

I had the honor of interviewing Mr. Thornberry for one Veteran’s Day page I did a few years ago for the Press. I learned he served in WWII as a corporal in the U.S. Army and an able bodied seaman for the Merchant Marines for 21 months during the Korean War.

“That was all draftees had to serve back then,” he had told me. “It was better than being in the Army.”

As a draftee of 1925, Mr. Thornberry was awarded the Purple Heart. He was wounded with a piece of shrapnel in his liver, which ended up in his stomach. But he said he enjoyed traveling to 30 foreign countries, even though he didn’t stay long in any. He came home in 1950 and married LaVerna. She was Walter’s “only one.”
The best part of knowing this man could be summed up in this one small conversation he and I had. I asked him how his wife was doing; and his response was acknowledging her Alzheimer’s. “… She don’t know who I am half the time.” And my reply was of sympathy, “Oh I’m so sorry, Walter.” He shook his head, turned to me and said, “I’d do it all over again.”

He always said, “It’s hell gettin’ old,” but if I could age like he did, that would be okay with me. He was the kind of man you could trust. And that’s the kind of person I want to be. To live life to the fullest and have no regrets. He taught me so much and I’m so sorry that he had to leave, but I will never forget him.

He was a credit to his town, his generation, his family and friends … his everything. My best writing doesn’t do justice to this man’s legacy, but I sure did try.

I will miss Walter Thornberry.

Rebecca Haines is a columnist for The Carthage Press