Special Education Principal, Beloved Spouse, Mother, Grandmother, Sister
Katharine Lynn Thornton, 75, died Thursday, February 25 at home in Newark, NJ from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. The oldest of eleven children, she was born at Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Maryland on May 14, 1945. Her late father, Edward J. Lynn, was a Major in in the Army Air Corps, later rising to Comptroller at The Continental Group, originally Continental Can Company. Her late mother, Rose McGuire Lynn, was a homemaker who later in life mastered Braille and transcribed many books for children. Kathy was raised in Metuchen, New Jersey, and grew up a steady “mother’s helper” to her younger siblings. Like her mother, she graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Perth Amboy, and she went on to major in Special Education at Newark State College (now Kean University). She earned an MPA from Rutgers.
Kathy’s love of children defined her. She began her career at the Kennedy Child Study Center in New York, and then spent thirty years helping special needs children in various Mount Carmel Guild (now Catholic Charities) schools. Kathy founded and led the organization’s first pre-school for special needs children as its principal until her retirement in 2013. She married her husband Paul, who truly loved her at first sight, in 1968, and they raised two children, Kate and Matthew, in Elizabeth and in Newark’s historic Forest Hill district. She loved hosting family and friends, particularly as a way of introducing others to the charms of Forest Hill.
Kathy was a multi-talented homemaker, excelling at needlepoint and as a seamstress who made her young children’s clothes as well as many of her own from a large collection of Vogue patterns. She wore out the binding of Volume 1 of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her lace cookies and angel food pie were always in demand at family gatherings. She was a constant reader and a lover of the performing arts, in particular ballet and opera. A woman who always made the most of her abundant talents, in her 50s Kathy added rowing to her regimen of Jane Fonda workouts, lap swimming and walking by becoming a charter member of the Passaic River Rowing Association. A natural beauty with a radiant smile and an outgoing, warm personality, Kathy was the perfect, ever-present partner to her husband in his role as development leader at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, and she helped introduce crew to the school, becoming the “godmother” of the St. Benedict's rowing program. She was also an especially devoted daughter whose regular visits and calls to her parents were a source of great enjoyment throughout her adulthood. She served on the board and as treasurer of the Family and Children’s Society of Elizabeth for several years. Later in life, she was an usher and greeter at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York. Kathy also cherished regular visits to Spring Lake, NJ, where she spent summer time as a girl at her ancestral home on Worthington Ave. and where she later created memories for her children and grandsons.
She leaves behind her husband of 52 years, Paul E. Thornton, her daughter Kate (Warren, NJ) and her son and daughter-in-law Matthew and Nancy V. Thornton and their children Edward, George and Charles (Ridgewood, NJ). Kathy also leaves four sisters, Anne Rahill (and husband Michael, Washington, DC), Jean Lynn (and husband David Gearin, Arlington, VA), Mary Lynn Hickey (Purcellville, VA), and Patricia Saclyn (and husband Albert, Bellefonte, PA), and six brothers, Edward (and wife Barbara, Ann Arbor, MI), James (and wife Gwen, Silver Spring, MD), Thomas (and wife Joanne, Mount Vernon, WA), John (Springfield, NJ), Robert (and wife Denise, Budd Lake, NJ) and Paul (and wife Sara, New Castle, NH). A celebration of her life will be scheduled at a future date. Arrangements by Higgins and Bonner, Westfield, NJ. Condolences may be posted at www.higginsandbonner.com. In lieu of flowers, donations in Kathy’s name can be sent to St. Benedict’s Prep, 520 Dr. MLK Blvd., Newark NJ 07102 or through www.sbp.org.
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