Robert Stevens Thorne attributed the timing of his birth to the Armistice of 1918 and the death of his uncle Charlie from the Spanish Flu. The surge of emotions that accompanied these events, he wrote in a private memoir, sent his mother into labor. By then the hospitals were full of flu patients. It was no place for a baby. Thus, on November 15, 1918, Robert came into the world in the home of his grandparents in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Robert’s father worked in a factory making airplane parts from Sitka spruce. Sometimes he took Robert to watch the planes leaping aloft from the small airfield nearby. The neighborhood was full of friends and relations, forever in and out of one another’s houses, and the clop of hooves from the vendors’ horse-drawn carts.
Robert loved horses. After high school he served two years in the National Guard cavalry while commuting weekdays to a job at Chase National Bank in New York. Then he traveled to Pullman, Washington, to study veterinary medicine at Washington State College (today Washington State University).
One summer day in Walla Walla, where he was working between semesters at a cannery, he met Dorothy Cox, a local girl and fellow WSC student, outside the Copper Kettle café. As he pulled up to her house the next day, the engine of his Model A Ford died; she came bounding down the steps to set the spark, choke, and throttle while he cranked it back to life. Soon they were an item. Then along came the Second World War. Robert joined the Army Medical Service Corps, and in 1942 he and Dorothy wed in Lawton, Oklahoma, where Robert was stationed.
After the war the couple settled in Walla Walla, where they raised their sons Robert Jr. and David. Robert taught the boys carpentry, mechanics, plumbing, and generally how to make themselves useful, and – as a proud Mason – to ensure they lived lives that were “level, plumb, and square.” Later, Robert’s career with the Army Corps of Engineers took the family to Great Falls, Montana, and finally Seattle.
Later Robert joined Seattle First National Bank and rose to Vice-President of Trust Real Estate. He and Dorothy moved to Mercer Island, and enjoyed their retirement with cruises, several trips to England and Ireland, and winters in Arizona. In 2009 they moved to Bainbridge Island to be near David and his family.
That year Dorothy suffered a severe stroke, and was moved into a nursing home. Robert visited her every day – first walking up the hill from his apartment in Winslow, and later driving up on his trusty electric scooter. He and David were with her when she died, in 2016. Robert became known around town for his daily motorized outings, his cheerfulness and good humor, and his gentlemanly manners. He died peacefully at his apartment on December 11, 2018.
Robert was preceded in death by his son, Robert Stevens Thorne, Jr., and leaves behind his son, David Thorne; David’s wife, Kathleen Thorne; his daughter-in-law, Lorene Thorne; his niece, the Reverend Phyllis Ann Heffner; his grandchildren Kristina Smith, John Thorne, Sarah Thorne, and Ned Thorne; and his great-grandchildren Kayla Krall and Kameron Krall. A graveside service was held on December 20, 2018 at Sunset Hills Cemetery in Bellevue, Washington.