Lemley Chapel
Serving Sedro-Woolley &
All of Skagit County Since 1935
1008 Third Street
Sedro-Woolley, WA
Donald Marvill Thorndike Memorial
Donald Marvill Thorndike Memorial

Donald Marvill Thorndike

Donald Marvill Thorndike

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Donald Marvill Thorndike, age 77, passed away unexpectedly in his sleep on Tuesday September 18, 2018 at his home in Acme, WA.

He was born May 11, 1941 in Brockton, MA to Herbert Cahoon Thorndike and Stella Marvill Thorndike.

A new job for his father resulted in a move for the family from Masschusetts to Seattle when Don was 11 years old. He graduated from Highline High School 1958, and enlisted in the Navy. After 5 years of  playing french horn in the Navy Band at Great Lakes as well as in the Waukegan Orchestra, he retrained as a Cryptologic Technician, repairing encryption equipment, requiring  top security clearance, and rising to the rank of 1st Class Petty Officer. He enjoyed his 10 years in the Navy and re-enlisted in the Naval Reserves twice, first  while attending Bible College in Portland, Or. and then a few years later while living in Seattle he served in the same Unit as, and under the command of, his brother Doug.

Don’s position as a Cryptologic Technician took him to duty stations in Morocco, North Africa and Rota, Spain where he became involved in ministry. He was invited by friends from the Chapel to visit an orphanage, an encounter that changed the course of his life when an 8 year old girl stayed seated beside him one Saturday evening after everyone else had left the living room and asked him, “Uncle Don, do you know Jesus?” Although he told her at the time that he did, he knew deep inside that he didn’t have the kind of relationship with God that he saw reflected in the lives of the children and staff there.  That night back at the barracks, he knelt beside his bed and asked Jesus to forgive his sins and take control of his life.  During the remainder of his time in the Navy, he worked closely with missionaries in Morocco and in Spain.

Don’s love for the Lord and ministry led him to being discharged from the military after 10 years rather than the 20 years he had envisioned. While studying at Multnomah Bible College in preparation to return to Morocco to work at the orphanage where he came to know the Lord, he met the love of his life, Lois Galbraith and they were married June 19, 1970 just 2 weeks after she graduated.  They lived in the Portland area, while he continued going to school full time and working as an assistant manager at McDonalds until his graduation 2 years later.

In 1972, they applied to go to The Children’s Haven orphanage in Morocco and they moved with baby daughter Elizabeth to Arlington, WA. He got a job at the lumber mill and worked with the youth at First Baptist Church in Marysville while raising support. In August of 1973, now a family of 4, having added baby Joshua, they boarded a freighter in New York bound for what they thought would be a life time of service in Morocco. Don loved children and his dream was to have a family of 20.  Before language study was completed, their request for residency was denied and they were forced to leave.

Not being a person easily dissuaded, and having had close ties with mission work in Spain while stationed in Rota, they moved to Malaga and helped out where they could until God opened the door for them to return to the U.S. to work with the American Missionary Fellowship, overseeing rural church ministries in Maine, where sons Dan and John were born, and then in Washington. While living in Seattle, Don took a printing course at Highline Community College to learn how to use the inherited A.M.F. office equipment which eventually led to an opportunity to return to Malaga to head up the printing department at the mission station there for 6 years after which they returned to the U.S. due to family needs, settling in Duvall, WA. Following Josh’s graduation from high school in 1991, Don accepted an invitation to pastor Calvary Baptist Church in Pendleton, OR.  Don loved the ministry. He got involved in the community and supplemented his income by driving school bus and working at Wendy’s along with his wife and 2 youngest sons.

After the graduation of their 2 youngest, they headed north again to be close to their widowed fathers. A good worker and always willing to do whatever it took to provide for his family, Don worked for a short time as a bus driver for  The Garden Club in Bellevue, as Assistant Manager for Cascadian Place in Everett. After moving to family property in Acme, he worked a short time as a substitute bus driver, janitor, cook and teacher’s aid for the Mt Baker School District until getting on full time with Bellair Airporter Shuttle as a bus driver.

Don’s love for the Ministry never ended. He, along with his wife joined Rome Community Bible Church, where he served as an Elder. Then for 6 years he pastored the Little Brown Chapel in Wickersham. In 2011 he retired as pastor and prepared to return to Spain with his wife to work at a Christian Camp and Conference Center along side of son Josh and his family.  A severe back injury and the need to help aging family members at home caused them to return to Acme once again.  Although he recovered from his back injury without surgery, it left him in constant pain and heart disease kept him from much physical exertion but you never heard him complain.  He continued to serve the Lord as Hymn Sing leader at church and enjoyed filling the pulpit at Wildwood Chapel on occasion.

He loved music, although he made the decision while in the Navy Band to not make it his bread and butter. He sang in the Oregon East Symphony as a soloist for The Messiah, and played french horn in the orchestra while pastoring in Pendleton. After moving to Acme in 2000, he played with the Bayshore Symphony.

He loved the outdoors and enjoyed sitting on our patio watching the rabbits and deer and elk and birds that graced our back yard. He could mimic some bird calls and they would answer him back as he walked down the road.  The last 3 years he looked forward to weekends away in our little trailer, his favorite place being Glacier Peak Resort in Marblemount.

His most recent dream was to buy a motorhome and travel around the U.S. after we retired this Fall but God had greater plans for him. Now free from pain and the physical restrictions of heart disease, he is walking Heaven’s streets of gold, and worshipping the Lord with a choir that’s out of this world. We will miss his love for the Lord, his tender heart, his warm embrace and his great sense of humor, a legacy lived on in the lives of his children and grandchildren.

Don is survived by his wife, Lois Galbraith Thorndike; Daughter Elizabeth (Rod) Rulffes, Amanda, Rachel, Sarah and Michael of DesMoines, WA; Son Joshua (Meghan) Thorndike, Kaitlin, Zach, and Gabriella of Deer Park, WA; Son Daniel (Elizabeth), Savannah, Shiloh, Shelby, Shay, and Samuel of Lynden, WA; Son John (Krystal), Jeremiah, Alison, Hosanna, and Judah of Dickinson, ND;

Brothers Dean (Diane) Thorndike of Suffield, CT; Doug (Jane) Thorndike of Snohomish, WA; and Paul (Teresa) Thorndike of Seattle, WA.  Sister-In-Law, Eunice (Paul) Wingert and Father-In-Law, Rhodes Galbraith.

Nieces Stacy (Anthony) Bowker, Cheryl Thorndike, Lisa Kucia, Melanie (Mark) Lounsbury; Cindy (Joel) Shaw, and nephew Tim (Angela) Wingert. Numerous great nieces & nephews, and dear friends to whom he was known as “Grandpa” or “Uncle Don”

Please join us for a Celebration of his Life on October 20, 2018 at 2:00 PM at Abundant Life Church, 3210 Meridian St, Bellingham, WA 98225.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made for the ongoing ministry of The Children’s Haven of Morocco. Please make checks out to Rome Community Bible Church with a memo note for “DMT Memorial”.


  • Alex & Rose Mary Blackwell Camren

    What a beautiful memorial and great ‘story of life’ this is. So many things we did not know! So many blessings given. We are honored to know Don and the family. You are all in our prayers

  • Lou Ann Krause

    Lois, We are so sorry to hear about Don passing. We so much enjoyed you and Don when he gave the sermon at Wildwood Chapel, He will be truly missed. Our deepest Sympathy, Jim and Lou Ann