SALLY BULLARD THORNTON (June 7, 1934-June 12, 2015)
Sally Thornton, one of San Diego’s most iconic philanthropists and businesswomen and matriarch of Thornton Winery, was laid to rest in San Diego today. A standing-room-only crowd gathered at the services, which was as packed as one of the many sold-out concerts at her family winery in Temecula, California.
Her husband, John, and son, Steve, were comforted by hundreds of friends and family members as they said their final goodbye to the stylish, witty, fun-loving wife and mother.
People from the overwhelming number of charities to which she contributed, businesses she ran and medical organizations she funded (including UCSD’s Thornton Hospital where Mrs. Thornton passed on Friday, June 12), attended her Celebration of Life at noon today at El Camino Memorial Park.
Nicolas Reveles, director of engagement for the San Diego Opera presided over the hour-long ceremony in the 200-seat chapel. Terry Whitcomb read the Kahlil Gibran passage, “On Death,” followed by a poem delivered by David Harkins, then the eulogy by Dr. Reveles.
Three of the Thornton family’s close friends offered words of remembrance from the podium next to Mrs. Thornton’s open casket. Scott Pedersen (Thornton Winery concert producer), Leonard G. Simpson (creator of Fashion Forward) and Doreen Schonbrun (commissioner of the San Diego Arts & Culture Commission), represented some of the 81-year-old’s many passions.
Scott, who was best friends with Mark Thornton (who passed away in 1993), gave a heartfelt tribute to Mrs. Thornton, whom he often called “mom.” He talked about her love and support of the musical acts they feature at the winery’s Champagne Concert Series, then did a spot-on impersonation of her legendary phrases she used to introduce the artists at each show. Scott, (who was still mourning the loss of his father-in-law, Kenneth O’Neal, Leslie O’Neal-Pedersen’s dad), brought the teary-eyed attendees a bit of comic relief when he said that he suspected that Mrs. Thornton’s playful spirit had a hand in her passing on Friday, which allowed enough time for a full-page obituary in Sunday’s San Diego Union-Tribune (which was recently sold to the Los Angeles Times). That issue was the last published on the daily newspaper’s San Diego presses, as all production was relocated to the Times‘ L.A facility. Scott also incited laughter when he mentioned that it was also no coincidence when the front page of Tuesday’s business section showed a newspaper employee displaying the first issue of the paper that was published in L.A., which, of course, showed Sally Thornton on the cover.
Although we will no longer see Mrs. Thornton gracing the social pages of the newspaper at all of the philanthropic galas and events as a donor or honoree, all of those charities and causes will continue to benefit from her benevolence.
After the chapel services, mourners were directed to the graveside committal, where saxophonist Richard Elliot played his bagpipes while her casket was lowered into the ground, next to her son Mark.
John and Steve Thornton then invited everyone to a Celebration of Life at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, where John told mourners that although this has been a very sad day, he wanted to now change the mood to one of partying. He raised his glass and asked everyone else to do the same in celebration of the woman he called his wife since 1955. Of course, there was plenty of Thornton wine and champagne to toast with.
Although the chapel couldn’t accommodate all funeral attendees, The Lodge at Torrey Pines ballroom was large enough for everyone, including San Diego Chief of Police Shelley Zimmerman; San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis; British fashion icon Zandra Rhodes; health spa/resort owner, fitness expert, author and Light Cuisine columnist Jeanne Jones, as well as other pillars of the San Diego business and philanthropic community.
Our sincere condolences and prayers are with John and Steve Thornton.