Leonard Thorson, age 88 of Philip, SD, died Monday, April 26, 2010, at Ft. Meade Veterans Hospice, surrounded by his family.
Leonard was born February 27, 1922 at home near Grindstone, SD, to Joe and Cora (Hovey) Thorson. He was the eldest of six children.
He was united in marriage to Phillis Pierce on October 16, 1948 in Rapid City. They farmed and ranched in the Grindstone area until moving to Philip in 1992. Leonard had the mail route to Milesville for nearly 50 years. One year he received recognition for outstanding service on the agri-talk radio program.
Leonard graduated from Cottonwood High School in 1940. He attended college in Mitchell and Spearfish and taught the Dean school before enlisting in the Navy in December 1942. He served as an aviation machinist mate aboard the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga (the Big T) during World War II. He served through three major battles in the Pacific. During one, his ship was struck by Kamikaze pilots, resulting in 700 deaths. Though badly burned, the ship made it back to its homeport in Seattle. Attending his ship's reunions led to many lasting friendships. The Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. to view the World War II Memorial in August of 2009 was a special highlight for him.
For 20 years Leonard and Phillis spent winters in Port Aransas, TX, where he enjoyed deep sea fishing, playing cards, square dancing and picking up sea shells as he walked on the beach.
Leonard's tree farm was his pride and joy. He spent many hours hoeing weeds and "talking to his trees." He enjoyed gardening and sharing his produce. Persistence and determination proved he could do anything he set his mind to. He inspired us and touched all our lives. His greatest joy was watching his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He especially liked watching his grandsons, Marcus and Blake, mow his yard. He was proud of his grandchildren who received good educations and a memorial is established for a scholarship for a Philip graduate.
Grateful for having shared his life are his wife of 61 years, Phillis; four children, Bill Thorson of Belle Fourche, Coral (Josh) Sand of Spearfish, and Bob Thorson and Crystal Martinez of Philip; siblings, Mildred Radway, Maxine O'Reilly, Corwin (Zoni) Thorson, Janice (Bart) Parsons, and sister-in-law JoAnn Thorson; eight grandchildren, Troy Thorson of Loveland, CO, Carrie (Jonathan) Nygard of Black Hawk, Jenny Sand of Spearfish, Kirby (Megan) Sand of Corvalis, OR, David (Cori) Burnett of Greenville, SC, Melissa (Eric) Holland of Lake Crystal, MN, and Marcus and Blake Martinez of Philip; six great grandchildren, Jaxon Zeller-Thorson, Carson Nygard, Savannah Holland, Tessa Holland, Jefferson Sand, and Cora Sand; and many individual family members linked together by a golden chain of love. He was preceded in death by his parents; one brother, Lauren Thorson; two brothers-in-law, Bob Radway and Loren O'Reilly; and one sister-in-law, Margo Thorson.
The family would like to express a great thank you to the staff of Fort Meade Veterans Hospice.
A celebration of life service will be held 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 2, at the First Lutheran Church in Philip.
Funeral services will be held 10:00 a.m. Monday, May 3, at the American Legion Hall in Philip, with Pastors Kathy Chesney and Al Brucklacher officiating.
Interment with military honors and Masonic rites, will be at the Masonic Cemetery in Philip.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to the Leonard Thorson Memorial Scholarship at Philip High School.
Arrangements are with the Rush Funeral Home of Philip.
Online guestbook available at www.rushfuneralhome.com