Jerry Bruce Thonton Sr., "Papa", passed away on August 6th, 2022 in the house where he lived for 57 years and raised his children in Tukwila, WA. He was three days shy of his 89th Birthday. He relished in sharing his most favorite stories, but we're sure he couldn't have told them if his hands were tied behind his back.
Jerry was born in Seattle to Thurle and Maxine and raised with his "kid brother", Tim, in West Seattle. He graduated from West Seattle High School, where he excelled in football and baseball. After highschool he played halfback for the Seattle Ramblers. He went on to play football for UW, until the Korean War interrupted his education and he joined the Navy. He was stationed at Sand Point Naval Air Station (WA), Pearl Harbor and Kwajalen (Marshall Islands), where he worked as an aircraft engine mechanic. Using his charm and powers of persuasion, Jerry somehow managed to find a way to also play football while serving his country. He played halfback for the Hawaii All Stars in the 1956 Hula Bowl with future NFL Hall of Famers.
After his service, he returned to the UW in 1956, where he played for the Huskies Baseball team. He captained the 1959 team to win the Northern Division, where they finished one game shy of the College World Series. He was later inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame with the rest of the 1959 team. He was also selected as part of the University of Washington All Century team. The Huskies still give out an annual "Jerry Thornton Unsung Hero Award". Despite his many accolades playing, the highlight of his time at UW was meeting his wife, Darlene. They married in 1957 at the Fauntleroy Church.
After graduation, Jerry was invited to try out for the Philadelphia Phillies AAA team, but he instead accepted a teaching position at Glacier High of the Highline school district, as #1 son Jeff had already joined the family. Four more sons followed in quick succession.
Jerry and Darlene settled in Tukwila, where they raised their 5 sons, who were commonly introduced by their birth number. They stayed in Tukwila, leaving only for one year when Jerry drove his entire family (including the dog) in a Ford Country Sedan Station Wagon to attend Grad School at University of Michigan. Upon return, he continued with Highline School District until he left for the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1973. Still, his family was his focus. Rather than uproot his children, he travelled to Olympia and back home daily until his retirement in 2002.
After retirement, he served as water commissioner, served on multiple Public Safety committees, volunteered at the Museum of Flight, and refereed for highschool football for 35 years. He also played competitive baseball into his 60s, where he got to play the game he taught his boys to love with #1 son Jeff, #2 son Jerry, and #4 son Jon. Always the family's biggest promoter, the story of the father and sons playing together made it in Sports Illustrated and other publications.
Jerry was the kind of guy that would meet you once and remember everything about you and would consider you a lifelong friend. We'll miss the highlighted stacks of articles he would set aside that made him think of us and his post-it notes instructions for everything.
He is survived by his brother, Tim (Marianne), #2 son Jerry "JB", #3 son, Joel (Rob), #4 son, Jon (Ann), #5 son, Jim (Carolyn). Papa also leaves behind 11 grandchildren: Jamie, Justin, Chelsey, James, Jordan, Erika, Jessica, Kylie, Eamon, Nyresse, and Cormac, along with four great grandchildren. Jerry was preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Darlene, his #1 son Jeff, and grandson, Tyler.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you attend a local Little League game and cheer in Jerry's honor. Memorial will be held on September 16 from 6:00pm-9:00pm at UW Conibear Shellhouse, 3896 Walla Walla Lane, Seattle, WA.
To share your condolences and memories of Bruce with Family and Friends, please visit his Tribute Wall, located above.
- Care & Arrangements Entrusted to Emmick Family Funeral Home -