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Gene Richard Thornton of Needham, MA (formerly of New Jersey, Virginia, and Papua New Guinea) passed away on February 9, 2024, after a long battle with the combined effects of Parkinsons, leukemia, and dementia. He was 75 years old, and leaves behind his beloved family and friends who will remember the quick and active man that he was before his illness.
Born on January 14th, 1949, to Frank and Mary Thornton (nee O’Connor) in New Jersey, Gene was the middle of three children. He was preceded in death by his parents; his older brother, Thomas “Tom” Thornton; and his sister-in-law, Ellen Thornton. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Regina “Regi” Thornton (nee Danko); his daughters, Kerry Thornton-Genova and Casey Thornton; his son-in-law, J. Alex Genova; his beloved grandson, Dante Genova; his sister, Mary Ellen Thornton; and his niblings Monissa Thornton, Katherine Hirni, Douglas Thornton, and Michael Thornton. In addition, he is survived by his many siblings-in-law: Brien Danko (Susan Danko); Teri Stevens (Peter Stevens); Jonathan Danko (Kelly Ryan Danko); Amy Sieradzki (Mark Sieradzki); Guy Danko (Doreen Danko); and Jill Dixon (David Dixon); as well as many nieces and nephews.
Growing up in Clifton, NJ, Gene was known as “Rick” and played baseball and basketball. His parents would send him and his brother to Asbury Park to spend time at a great aunt’s boarding house in the summers, where he played sandlot ball. He went to Seton Hall for both high school and for college, where he got a BA in English. Later, he continued his education at Boston University, where he focused on Communications.
As a technical editor, Gene worked at several companies, including at Allyn & Bacon, Raytheon, and the American Chemical Society in Washington, DC. A lover of travel, Gene and his wife moved to Papua New Guinea in 1981 after answering an ad in the paper for an editor. There, Gene worked at IASER (Institute for Applied Social and Economic Research) and Regi worked as a teacher, living in a bungalow on the university campus in Port Moresby with three pet dogs. They traveled to many countries, having experiences that most people only read about. A natural adventurer, Gene loved scuba diving amongst World War II wrecks and petting moray eels. He tried everything that he could in the South Pacific, whether it was swimming with sharks, camping with giant spiders in the PNG highlands, or trying new cuisine.
After returning to the US, Gene, an early believer in computer technology, worked in software for Lotus, IBM, and later Dynatrace. Though his work was in technology, Gene loved the outdoors and took his family on many memorable vacations, traveling all over the USA to hike in national parks and see different landscapes. Gene loved camping, something which is apparently not passed on genetically. He loved animals, and encouraged his daughters to always have pets, leading to a menagerie in the house. Gene’s much loved pet cat, Max, and grand dog, Charley, miss him greatly. Active throughout his adult life, Gene was a runner who ran every day that he could. He ran marathons, as well as played tennis and golf. Growing up, his daughters remember planting gardens with him, as well as fishing, going to museums, and looking for wildlife.
In addition to his love of nature, his family will remember him for his intelligence and humor. He enjoyed watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and could quote both Seinfeld and South Park. He believed in the equality of all people, and in all sports. He rooted for the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Celtics, and the Bruins. His grandson shares his love of the Red Sox and will remember watching games with him.
Visiting hours will be held in the Eaton Funeral Home, 1351 Highland Ave, Needham, on February 16th, 4 - 7 pm. A Funeral Service will be held in the funeral home on Saturday, February 17th at 11 am. In lieu of flowers, his family asks that you donate to the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a cause near to their hearts), the American Cancer Society, or The Animal Rescue League of Boston.