PRESS Staff Report
A force of nature, a tough guy with a big heart, a loyal friend, an adventurer – those were just a few terms used to describe Matthew Gregory “Matt” Thornton by those who knew him best.
Thornton, 43, of Laguna Vista, and a longtime employee of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press and South Padre Parade Entertainment Magazine entered into eternal rest on Friday, February 1, 2013 at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen.
Thornton was born on November 14, 1969, in Austin, and moved with his family to the Rio Grande Valley as a child. He was a standout athlete at Weslaco High School where he earned All-Valley honors as a football player and statewide recognition as a track star. After graduating from Weslaco High School in 1988, he attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock on a football scholarship before returning to live on South Padre Island.
Many in the area knew Thornton through his work at the Press/Parade where he was employed for nearly 20 years, first as a salesperson, then Advertising Director and finally General Manager until leaving to establish his own business, Thornton Ranch Security, in 2011.
An avid outdoorsman, Matt enjoyed spending time with family and friends, fishing the waters surrounding South Padre and hunting at his lease near Raymondville. He was an accomplished storyteller whose adventurous spirit, love of life, generosity and sense of humor endeared him to all who knew him.
Ben Brooks, Press/Parade Publisher from 1994-05, forged a friendship with Thornton during his tenure at the publication. Brooks said he’ll remember Thornton as an individual who loved and embraced life. Brooks added that their bond was built on mutual respect and by the fact that they had a lot in common. “We had a lot of similarities,” Brooks explained. “We liked to hunt and fish and he’d crack me up all the time. He was just a great guy to work with,” Brooks added.
Brooks said that when he first took the helm at Port Isabel, upon relocating from Louisiana, he had issues with Thornton’s professional attire, or the lack thereof. “I had a problem with the shorts, but the more I got to know him, the less I cared because it didn’t matter; he was good at what he did,” Brooks recalled.
Ray Quiroga, the Press and Parade’s current publisher, recalls having a similar conversation with Thornton when he first came aboard in 2008. “Yes, I recall asking him to change his mode of dress, especially if he was going to be my GM, but shortly thereafter, I started wearing shorts and sandals. He ended up changing me. I was the convert,” Quiroga recalls.
But Brooks and Quiroga said that Thornton was much more than that. Both publishers said Thornton was a stellar employee who the company could depend on in a pinch. “I relied heavily on Matt. When he finally left to pursue his own goals, he did so knowing that I finally knew my way,” Quiroga said.
“Everywhere around the office there are reminders of Matt,” Quiroga went on to add. “I claimed his desk after his last day, and he left it pretty much the way he used it when he came in to work, as if to say, ‘I shall return.’”
Quiroga, who kept in contact with Thornton during these past few years, said he sincerely believed Thornton would have returned to the newspaper business, in time. “During our final conversation a few weeks ago, he looked unbelievably healthy and relaxed, but he did say he missed the people (the interaction) with the community,” Quiroga said. “He was a people person. And given time, I think he would have come back for them.”
Matt is survived by his son, Wyatt and mother of his son, Pamela S. Aikman both of South Padre Island; parents, Bill Dozier and Jonelle Wheatley Thornton both of Karnes City, TX,; two brothers, Brian Dozier Thornton and Steven Clark Thornton of Karnes City, TX.; one niece, Jennifer (David) Pierson of Austin, TX.; uncle and aunt, Joseph and Judith Wood of San Antonio, TX.
A celebration of his life was held at Chapel by the Sea on South Padre Island on Thursday afternoon.
Read this story in the Feb. 7 edition of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.