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Robert "Bob" Richard Thornton

October 16, 1926 March 11, 2016
Robert "Bob" Richard Thornton
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Obituary for Robert "Bob" Richard Thornton

PEORIA - Robert “Bob” Richard Thornton, 89, of Peoria died peacefully and surrounded by family on Friday, March 11, 2016, at OSF St. Francis Medical Center.

Bob was born Oct. 16, 1926, in Jersey City, N.J., to Arthur and Sabina Thornton. He graduated Regis High School in New York City on June 15, 1945, and was immediately drafted into the U.S. Navy as a petty officer. After the end of World War II, he enrolled in Georgetown University on the GI Bill, and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1950 with a Bachelor of Arts.

After a brief stint in the Merchant Marines, he enrolled in Columbia University Law School in New York City and graduated with a Juris Doctorate in 1953. He practiced law in New York City for 17 years with the law firms Dorr Hand and Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, and Alexander.

On Sept. 10, 1966, he married Dorothy McGuire of New York City. Shortly after, he declined an opportunity to join President Nixon’s administration. In 1970, at the invitation of a mentor, he moved to Peoria, Ill., to join Caterpillar Tractor Co., to help build the company’s internal legal department.

In June 1983, Bob was named General Counsel and Secretary to the Board of Directors for Caterpillar. He served in that capacity until his retirement in November 1991.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy of Peoria; and four children, Matthew (Berta Rueda Thornton) of Vera Cruz, Mexico, Nicholas of Peoria, Jennifer of Washington D.C., and Julia Thornton Reinthaler (Wade Reinthaler) of El Paso, Ill.

Bob was preceded in death by his parents; his sister, Elizabeth; and his brother, Arthur.

Upon retiring, Bob and Dorothy traveled widely but chose to stay in Peoria. Bob loved his home and life in Peoria, often calling it a “garden spot.”

Family was Bob’s greatest source of passion and pleasure. He was also an accomplished piano player, golfer, tennis player, skier, and waterman. His unique love of literature was indulged through his final days.

A funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 16, 2016, at St. Philomena Catholic Church. Father David Richardson will officiate. Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at Wright & Salmon Mortuary, with recitation of the Rosary at 4:30 p.m. An additional visitation will be 30 minutes prior to the Mass at church. Burial will be in St. Patrick Cemetery in Kickapoo.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in the name of Robert and Dorothy Thornton to St. Philomena’s School in Peoria, Ill., Regis High School in New York City, or the National Association for Rare Disorders at

Friends may sign the online guestbook or send private condolences by logging onto

Previous Events





5:00 PM 3/15/2016 5:00:00 PM - 7:00 PM 3/15/2016 7:00:00 PM
Wright & Salmon Mortuary

2416 N North St
Peoria, IL 61604

Recitation of the Rosary at 4:30 PM

Wright & Salmon Mortuary
2416 N North St Peoria 61604 IL
United States

Funeral Mass




10:00 AM 3/16/2016 10:00:00 AM
St. Philomena Catholic Church

1000 W. Albany Ave
Peoria, IL 61604

Visitation will be 30 minutes prior to the Mass

St. Philomena Catholic Church
1000 W. Albany Ave Peoria 61604 IL
United States

Cemetery Details


St. Patrick Cemetery-Kickapoo Final Resting Place

Kickapoo, IL 61528

1 Kickapoo 61528 IL
United States

Memorial Contribution

National Association for Rare Disorders

St. Philomena Catholic School

Regis High School - New York City


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