Joseph Francis Thornton

Jan 28, 1947 - Jan 2, 2022


There will be a Visitation and Rosary from 5-8pm with the Rosary to begin at 6:00pm on Tuesday January 25th at the East Lawn Chapel located at 9189 E. Stockton Blvd in Elk Grove.

A Funeral mass will be held at 10:00am on Wednesday January 26th at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church located at 9961 Elk Grove Florin Rd. in Elk Grove

A Committal service with full Military Honors will be held at 2:00pm Wednesday January 26th at San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery located at 32053 Mc Cabe Rd., Santa Nella CA. 95322


  • Bob Broderick says:

    R.I P. Joe.

    Was a pleasure to know and work with you all theses years.

  • Ruth Lawrence says:

    Miss you big brother!

  • Mary Theresa Thornton says:

    I am so glad you were with us at Christmas! Thank you for PRAY, HOPE and DON’T WORRY. I love and miss you muchly. God bless

  • Craig Ostergaard says:

    It has been an a very good experience and an honor working with you for almost 30 years. You and your guys are responsible for establishing many new forests and protecting our forest in the Sierras. When I walk in the woods I will see you there. Rest in peace my friend knowing you did well.

  • Dominic Moscarelli says:

    Rest In Peace. Hopefully Barbara and others gave you the welcome you deserve. It was our pleasure serving with you. My time spent as your 1st SGT was one of the high lights of my career. Until we meet again God Bless You.

  • Bryan Nicolos says:

    Rest In Peace, it been a great pleasure knowing you, you taught me so much I will never forget, some of the things you taught me I teach my troops now. You will not be forgotten. God bless you for your wisdom and guidance. I will stack three stones for you here in Alaska.
    Peace be with you.

  • SSGT Lyle Giles says:

    Col. Thornton, (Smoking Joe)
    From the 1st day I entered the Unit you welcomed me with open arms. You treated me and the entire unit as your family.
    Our 2 TDY’S to Honduras, you kept us safe while we did our Jobs.
    It has been a Pleasure to have served in your company.
    You will be missed.
    To the Thornton Family, I pray for you and God Keeps you in this time of Celebration of Life.

    Ssgt Lyle Giles, 940th CE

  • Glenn Young says:

    Col Thornton – Rest In Peace Sir – Thank-you for all the practical and valuable lessons in leadership they don’t teach at SOS, ACSC and AWC. Most of all thank-you for walking the walk – not just talking the talk. Your sage wisdom, strategic planning skills and genuine and caring leadership as our Commander will never be forgotten. “…Take care of the people first second and last and they will take care of the mission…” – HUA! God Bless you and your family.

  • Steve Watkins says:

    Yes Sir, you’ll be missed. Thank you for your support when we served together.

  • CMSGT Jason Henderson (Retired) 940th CES says:

    I still reference Col Smokin’ Joe when talking about leadership. While on TDY at Bergstrom AFB, we were behind schedule on our annual tour project and we’re not sure if we would get back on schedule. The next thing I knew Smokin’ Joe rolled up his sleeves and was right there next to us leading from the front. I know that I was inspired by his actions and this is one of many examples of his leadership. He will be missed but his legacy will still continue.

    There was also a time while a Mather AFB, he asked me to give a brief on how to fully operate a new generator and light cart. I was completely nervous but delivered and another leadership lesson that helped make a difference in my career.

  • frank wheat says:

    Hard to believe Joe is no longer with us physically. Joe was a man’s man, his presence was undeniable. His gruffness was overshadowed by his kindness.
    I was lucky to have known Joe thru our business relationship and while we served our country in the USAF Reserves.
    The first time I met Joe was during a unit deployment to the UK. Joe was the deployment commander and as he barked orders to our unit members, I thought he was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor (DI).
    Years later when both of us retired, I teased him about that day and suggested that maybe he should have been a US Marine instead of wearing USAF Blues, all he did was smile and laugh (I am not sure if he thought I was wrong).
    Joe will be missed. Rest in Peace.

  • Joe was a strong supporter of the timber industry in general and the logging sector in particular, for decades.
    Here at Associated California Loggers, we will remember Joe for his attendance at local chapter meetings and at our Annual Meeting for all members. Joe supported us in every way he could, with personal advice, political opinions, and through donations via our auctions and to our Resource Availability Fund. Joe also supported our “Log-a-Load for Kids” charity for the treatment of babies and children in hospital care. Joe will be missed as a friend, a leader, and a supporter.

  • Frank Mulhair says:

    Joe would come into the office and ask, “what projects are you working on?” After you told him he would make sure you hadn’t forgotten your Silviculture and road engineering best management practices. It cost you a little bit of time, but it was worth it. Joe really cared about our lands and the Forestry community. We’ll miss you, Joe.

  • Jodie T Lawrosky says:

    I met Joe through Sydney…at her old place in Mountain View. Other than knowing she was married, I didn’t know who to expect!

    It was always fun bantering back and forth as we both held some differing views of the world. Whenever he called in from the forest, and I was meeting with Syd, he always greeted me with a joyful tone. I never had to deal with the DI, so I guess I can count myself fortunate!

    I will miss his sense of humor, and being around the 2 of them. God Speed, Joe! It was a full life you lived!

  • Bob Broderick says:

    Trying to get on for the service. Joe taught me so much

  • Eddie and Lynette King says:

    Joe, even though we didn’t get to visit with you often, the time we did spend together was such a pleasure. Sydney will be in good hands but you will surely be missed. Rest easy our friend and neighbor. Much love, Eddie, Lynette and Brandi xoxox

  • Great photo. Even in black and white one can recognize the Vietnam Service Medal, upper left.

  • Cindy Ellen Glass says:

    May Joe’s memory be a blessing!

    ps I can’t find the Zoom info to attend now.

  • Bruce and Diane Nadler says:

    Joe Thornton, You were a great leader and an even better friend. You got people involved, because you and Sydney were always involved. Every winter you got even more involved, making you a very difficult act to follow. You set a great example for officers and enlisted. That example led to many of our troops doing extremely well in their own careers. Not only did many of our enlisted end up as Seniors and Chiefs (at least 5), but three of our officers ended up as Colonels and three more as Lt. Colonels. That’s a pretty good legacy of taking care of your people. On friendship, you were always available. On mission, you moved the 940th to McClellan (I believe the largest in-house project done by the Air Force Reserves), you put two Civil Engineering units together into an effective unit, and then coordinated the move to Beale. Could not have been so successfully done without you. Diane and I will miss you.

  • Kathy Primrose says:

    LtC T, you always challenged us to be better at our jobs and as human beings. Thank you for your leadership, guidance, and that kick in the butt when needed. And some of us needed that more than others. You will be greatly missed. Thoughts and prayers for Sydney and the family.

  • John j Seffern says:

    It is hard for me to express how I fell about the loss of “the last of the General Pattons” an extraordinary leader and friend. Even more so as we had in common our civilian occupations of wild land fire fighting (him with his fleet of bulldozers, me in the air). I always thought I would get to see him again, he mad an incredible impact on those he came in contact with. I will miss him terribly, but I treasure the time we had.

  • Ed Struffenegger says:

    Joe always took an amazing amount of pride in his work, and he was always a pleasure to work with. I’ll miss his warm smile, his quick wit, and his wonderul demeanor. What a great guy. We will miss him.

  • Dan Stapleton says:

    Sad to see Joe Thornton pass on. There was no one more committed to doing things right than Joe. Whether it be in life or in business. Rest in piece my friend.

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