Tom Thornton
Retired Stanley Police Chief ….

Retired Stanley Police Chief public service oriented

Stanley lost a good man last week when Tom Thornton, former Stanley Police Chief and sheriff’s deputy among his many other roles, passed away from cancer. He was 67.

Thornton will be remembered for many things, but one theme that kept coming back from those who knew him was ‘service-oriented.’ From serving in law enforcement on the local and county levels, to the school board and later county government, then to working as a maintenance man at Sunset Homes until prevented by illness, Thornton served his community, a point that Father William Felix made in his funeral homily for Thornton Monday.

"Working at Sunset Homes was an act of service,” Felix said Monday morning from Holy Family regarding Thornton’s involvement with the apartments off of Fourth Av- enue. But working at Sunset Homes was far from the only act of service Thornton did over the years.

Starting as a patrolman with the Lake Hallie Department after school at Stout, Thornton was hired on in the spring of 1978 at age 23 by the Stanley Police Department, along with James Foss. Quickly promoted to Sergeant, Thornton soon became the chief upon then chief Hayes resignation, then serving Stanley as chief until March of 1990.

Prior to Thornton taking over, Stanley Chief Jim Hayes was quoted as saying that it was “mathematically impossible” to provide full-time coverage with four officers working 40-hour weeks, and that large amounts of overtime were required. Thornton put in his share of time, including as chief.

FROM PAGE 1 Presiding over the Stanley Police Department for twelve years until March 1, 1990, Thornton left the local de- partment to take a position as a Chippewa County Sheriff’s deputy, serving as a patrolman until August of 2009. Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kow- alczyk shared that he remem bered Thornton as a ‘gentle giant’ in his role as a sheriff’s deputy, and had known the for mer patrolman for 43 years.

“He will be missed by members of the law enforcement community," Kowalczyk said. After retiring from the County Sheriff’s Department in 2009, Thornton went on to take a County Board roll as well as one at Sunset Homes.

As to the County Board, Thornton served as the District 5 representative until a few months before he passed. Former Conservation Warden and Chippewa County Board Chair Dean Gullickson shared his memories of Thornton on the County Board.

“He was public service ori- ented," Gullickson said. "He didn't have to jump back into service as a county board member, but he did.”

Outside his role in law enforcement and the coun- ty Thornton also took time to serve as the local school board president, a role that former district superintendent Charles Poulter worked with him in, sharing memories recently.

I thought he was a pretty good board president,” Poulter shared of Thornton, adding, "You knew where you stood when you were talking to Tom." The former Stanley-Boyd Superintendent also said that Thornton wasn’t afraid to tackle the tough is – sues, but also "spoke in such a way that people respected him.” Poulter’s nod to respect of Thornton by others was echoed by current Stanley Police Chief Lance Weiland.

“I respected Tom a lot,” Weiland shared Monday afternoon. Weiland explained of how he worked with Thornton when Thornton was a sheriff’s deptuy. Going on to say that Thornton was a “wealth of knowledge" as well as expe rienced and reliable, Weiland said Thornton worked over night shifts.

“Being a Stanley resident, he was often assigned to this part of the County,” Weiland shared. Long-time coworker Louie Eslinger also had memories of Thornton.

"I worked with Tom my whole career,” the now police chief of Cadott shared. “He was a fantastic cop. He was always there.” Eslinger said that Thornton could often defuse a situation by his presence alone. But police work wasn't all that Thornton was involved in. He also helped out local businesses as well.

“Tom on his free time dedicated a lot of project time to the theater,” Eslinger said. The reason, as Eslinger shared it, was that Thornton wanted to see small town businesses like those of Stanley survive.

“He was a true public servant,” the Cadott Police Chief said. Stanley Housing Authority Executive Director Linda Fredrickson, who oversees Sunset Homes at Stanley,

summed up the rest.

“He loved all the people,” she said of Thornton working maintenance for nine years on site. “He treated them as friends.”

hired at Stanley, March 1978

December 1, 2021