LONG BEACH - Robert Franklin Thornton, 79, a resident of Olympia, died Feb. 19, 2004, while digging his 11th clam on the beach in Long Beach. He was born Aug. 31, 1924, in Ogilvie, Minn.

Mr. Thornton was no stranger to the Peninsula. His family lived here in the 1930s. His dad walked the beach each morning early, often bringing home a glass Japanese fishing float. His mother strung oyster shells to seed new oyster beds. He was an expert clam digger. In three strong moves he had his razor clam. He would get his limit all too soon and then try to teach others how to dig. In his last weeks, Mr. Thornton had not been well, but spoke often of digging clams just one more time. His wish was granted and he was happy. Death brings pain to those left behind, but for him, he could not have picked a better moment for leaving this earth.

Mr. Thornton served as a ball-turret gunner in World War II and was called back in the Korean War. He worked as a machinist and in quality control for the General Electric Co. on the Hanford Project.

He loved buying and selling antiques, was an avid reader and would often croon to the music of the '30s and '40s or recite poems he committed to memory as a young student.

Mr. Thornton leaves behind his wife of more than 50 years, Betty; two sons, Gregory Thornton and his wife Diane, and Stacy Thornton and his wife Leona; his grandchildren: Sheri Nordwell and her husband Kyle, Wyatt Thornton, Bobby Thornton, Jami Thornton, Dani Thornton, and Cole Thornton; brother, Dale Thornton; sister Sybil Bauer, 13 grandnieces and grandnephews and 15 great-grandnieces and great-grandnephews.

Contributions could be made to the American Heart Association. Local arrangements by Penttila's Chapel by The Sea.

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