Kenneth E. Thornton, 84, passed away Monday, September 16, 2013 at Alexian Health Care in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Born in Lexington, Alabama, his family moved to Winter Garden, Florida when he was a teenager. He graduated from Lakeview High School where he was Senior Class President and lettered in basketball, football and baseball.
He spent the summer following his freshman year at the University of Florida troubled about what to do with his life. On a clear night with the sky filled with stars he sat on the fender of his car seeking answers. He experienced a powerful Pauline encounter with God calling him to be a minister.
Not having grown up in church, Ken transferred to Carson-Newman College to enrich his spiritual knowledge and faith. His senior year he met his future wife, Doris Shropshire and pastored Enon Baptist church in rural Jonesborough.
He graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary while pastoring Brookneal Baptist Church in Virginia. His son, Kelly and daughter, Beth were born during his pastorate. A pastorate at St. Cloud Baptist Church in Florida followed where his daughter, Amy was born. Pastorates in Hillcrest Heights, Maryland and Severna Park, Maryland followed. He was a leader in numerous state and convention organizations as well as a speaker at community events. He was known as a peacemaker who led in the resolution of civil unrest issues in various communities.
His gentle, loving nature was deeply rooted in his abiding faith, Bible study and rich prayer life. Following a spiritual crisis in a congregation, he did an internship in clinical pastoral education at Saint Elizabeth Hospital in Washington, D. C. followed by a two year residency at Bowman- Gray Medical School on Winston- Salem, N.C.
After earning his credentials as a clinical pastoral educator he became Director of the Department of Pastoral Care at Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, Texas where he faithfully served for eleven years. He retired to keep a promise to his wife to return to their beloved East Tennessee. Ever the minister, he left retirement to serve seven years as a chaplain with St. Mary's Hospice in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was a member of Knoxville First Baptist Church where he served as a deacon, teacher of the Shalom Sunday School Class and leader of numerous seminars.
Ken and his wife moved to Alexian Village Retirement Center on Signal Mountain, Tennessee in 2010 where he became a volunteer chaplain in the health care center. He joined Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church after finding kindred spirits among the pastors and congregation.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Edward Vonus and Irene Holden Thornton.
Surviving are his wife of 57 years, Doris Shropshire Thornton; son Kelly Hunter (Veronica) Thornton; daughters Elizabeth Holden Thornton and Amy Caroline Thornton; grandchildren Lyndsey Noel Thornton and Blake Hunter Thornton; sisters Billie Jean Garmony and Carolyn Trent.
He leaves his body for research to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
A memorial service will be held at 1 PM on Saturday, September 28 at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church with the Reverend Dr. William Dudley and the Reverend Margaret Ferguson presiding.
Memorials may be made to the Alexian Village Residents Scholarship Fund at 437 Alexian Way, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377.