Late Old Town Rotary Club member spearheaded respite house project

Chad Dodge (left) and Raymond Sawyer (right) both employees of Lindsey Foundations, Inc., pour cement for the foundation of a house currently under construction in Old Town which will then be auctioned off to build another house for cancer patients in Brewer. The land and much of the labor for the house under construction was donated by Milford businessman Tom Thornton, who died earlier this week.
Chad Dodge (left) and Raymond Sawyer (right) both employees of Lindsey Foundations, Inc., pour cement for the foundation of a house currently under construction in Old Town which will then be auctioned off to build another house for cancer patients in Brewer. The land and much of the labor for the house under construction was donated by Milford businessman Tom Thornton, who died earlier this week.
Posted Oct. 13, 2011, at 6:34 p.m.

OLD TOWN, Maine — According to his obituary, Thomas E. Thornton Jr. of Milford was a man who had great passion for his community.

Thornton, who died of cancer Oct. 8 at the age of 61, was a past president of the Old Town Rotary Club. Before his death he set the wheels in motion on a club project that aims to build a respite house at the CancerCare of Maine facility in Brewer.

Dan Thornton, Tom’s nephew, said Thursday that his uncle gave the Rotary Club a plot of land on Abbott Street in Old Town on which to build a house that it will “sell for seed money” to jump-start the project in Brewer.

“We don’t have the funding behind it yet,” he said of the Brewer respite house.

The project came to life in the summer of 2010, courtesy of Old Town Rotary Club member Sarah Robinson, according to Thornton. Robinson was diagnosed with brain cancer, and while undergoing treatment, she formed friendships with people who were traveling from the state’s northern reaches for treatment in the Bangor area.

“Sarah, during her fight, came up with a great idea to build a house much like the Ronald McDonald house at Eastern Maine Medical Center for the people that are traveling to Brewer for treatment,” Thornton said.

“[Robinson] met a lot of people at the CancerCare of Maine,” added Thornton. “Old Town Rotary really jumped behind the project.”

Later that summer, Thomas Thornton donated the land in Old Town for the Rotary Club to build on.

“Without this land, we would never have known where to start,” said Dan Thornton.

However, to make Robinson’s dream a reality, there were plenty more things to overcome.

“[We] had some hurdles that needed to be cleared first, the biggest being money,” said Dan Thornton. “We needed a big fundraiser to get this off the ground.”

Thomas Thornton’s land donation came in the wake of the Rotary Club deciding it would build “a single-family dwelling and sell it for seed money to get the CancerCare of Maine house off the ground,” added Thornton.

Thomas Thornton was a longtime member of the Old Town Rotary Club. His obituary said he “was a true entrepreneur” who had served on the Katahdin Area Council of Boy Scouts and was a past president of Freightliner of Maine.

“He generously started this process and it hasn’t stopped rolling since,” said Dan Thornton. “It was his vision and motivation that has made the Old Town Rotary Club such a strong group in our town.”

Thomas Thornton’s funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Holy Family Church in Old Town.

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