Sunday, October 1, 2023
4:00 PM EDT
StoryPoint Kalamazoo at Bronson Place
1700 Bronson Way
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Services will be held in the auditorium.
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Edgar Thornburg, it is easy to see both his unwavering strength and his unconditional love for his loved ones. He was a shining example of kindness and generosity, and he devoted himself to serving others at every opportunity. Nothing brought Ed greater joy than spending time with his loved ones, even in the simplest of moments. His primary focus in life was forming deep and personal relationships with those around him, making a lasting impact on everyone he met. Forever loved, Ed will be dearly missed by those who knew him best.
On July 9, 1927, there was much to celebrate in the lives of Arnold Loman and Wilma Virginia (Walker) Thornburg as they announced the birth of their firstborn son, Edgar Lee, in Steubenville, Ohio.
Growing up in Follansbee, West Virginia, Edgar was a typical young man of his generation in many ways. He was raised in the family home alongside his two younger sisters, Joanne and Sally Sue. Ed’s father supported the family by working at a steel mill on the banks of the Ohio River while Ed’s mother was an elementary school teacher. Throughout his childhood Edgar was very involved in the youth programs at Follansbee Presbyterian Church. He discovered a passion for music at a young age and enjoyed playing several different bass instruments in his school band over the years. Ed especially loved playing the baritone, and he also took lessons at the local dance school and became a skilled tap and swing dancer. As a teenager, he began working in the coke plant near Follansbee, where he primarily shoveled the coal that was used to produce coke for the steel mills.
Following his graduation from high school, Edgar decided to pursue further education by working towards an engineering degree at West Virginia University. However, he was pulled away to serve in the Merchant Marines. Ed always said that the Merchant Marines opened his eyes and showed him the world. He then spent two years in the United States Army, where he was stationed at Wolmido Island near Incheon, off the coast of Korea. After returning from the Army, Ed continued his studies at West Virginia University, this time majoring in philosophy. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. During this time, Ed worked various jobs on campus, including serving meals at a rooming house for female students.
New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Ed as he met the woman of his dreams. Her name was Jane Rankin, and the two first met through Ed’s work in the female rooming house. They shared a love of music, dancing, musicals, concerts, and big band shows, and they formed an immediate connection. After completing their undergraduate degrees, both Ed and Jane decided to pursue their careers. While Jane returned to her hometown of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, to work as a music teacher in local schools, Edgar began attending Western Theological Seminary. He also began serving as a pastor at the Homer City Presbyterian Church in Homer City, Pennsylvania. Despite leading their separate lives, Ed and Jane continued to grow closer as a couple. It didn’t take them long to realize that they were made for each other. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Edgar and Jane were married on June 19, 1950. The newlyweds then settled down in Homer City.
All who knew Ed can certainly agree that, of all the things he loved in life, he treasured his family above all else. He and Jane were overjoyed to welcome their two sons, Lee and Scott, into their hearts and home. Edgar thrived as a father and passed his love of music onto his children, both of whom grew up to become professional musicians. Later in life, he was thrilled to become a grandfather and even a great-grandfather. Ed always considered himself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones.
Edgar truly dedicated himself to serving his community. After graduating with his Master of Divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1952, he was formally ordained as a minister of the Presbyterian Church. Ed spent several years in Homer City before receiving a call to serve as pastor at the Second Presbyterian Church in Danville, Kentucky. In 1959, he was called by the Presbytery of Cleveland, Ohio to guide the development of a new church in Highland Heights, a Cleveland suburb. At first, Ed led worship services in a local fire station, but before long, property was acquired and a church was built. Highland Presbyterian Church continued to grow and became a thriving, healthy church community. In 1969, Edgar became the pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in North Syracuse, New York, a position that he retained until his retirement in 1992. Though no longer a full-time minister, he continued to serve as a supply preacher in the central New York region for another 20 years. Ed had a genuine love for people and leading others in their faith.
Never one to sit still for long, Ed pursued many hobbies to stay busy in his free time. He was an avid woodworker, and he enjoyed building furniture. Over the years, Ed created several pieces of furniture that became significant parts of their home. His wife, Jane, loved making teddy bears for family and friends, and Ed later joined her in the hobby. Ed lost the love of his life in 2017, and continuing to pass out teddy bears in her memory brought him great joy. He was known as the “Teddy Bear Guy” at the Fountains.
As family and friends can surely attest, Edgar Thornburg truly understood the secret to a life well lived. He was a constant source of strength for those around him. A loving husband, father, and grandfather, Ed was a friend to all he met. He was always willing to go above and beyond to serve his family and his community, and he was well known for his patience, his spirit of kindness, and the unshakeable faith that formed the foundation of his life. Though he will be deeply missed, Ed leaves behind a priceless legacy that his loved ones will be proud to carry on in his footsteps.
Edgar Lee Thornburg, died on July 29, 2023. Ed’s family includes his children, Lee Rankin Thornburg and Scott Walker Thornburg, both of whom are professional musicians. Lee and his wife, Cassie, reside in Naples, FL. Scott and his wife, Sue Larsen, reside in Kalamazoo. Ed is also survived by his sister Joanne Bodley (Centerville, MA); three grandchildren: Laura Jane Thornburg (Johannes Stegmann), Lee Larsen Thornburg, and Eric Scott Thornburg, as well as two great-grandchildren: Jude Scott Stegmann and Charlotte Jane Stegmann (Kalamazoo, MI). Also surviving are nephews: Kurt Bodley, Keith Bodley (Cathy), Martin Bodley (Danielle), and niece Jennifer Burgett (Roddy), and their families (MA). Cremation has taken place and a memorial service will be held Sunday, October 1, 2023 at 4 pm at StoryPoint Kalamazoo at Bronson Place, 1700 Bronson Way, Kalamazoo. Visit Edgar’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and to sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to a charity of your choice. Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.