Ron Thornton passed away on Thursday 12th June 2003 .

Born in 1925 he will be remembered as a dedicated teacher, or for his dramatic tenor voice and as a gentle and supportive family man.

Ron was born in Doncaster, the first child to Arthur and Olive his school Cadet experience led to a spell in the RAF, taking him to Canada at the end of the Second World War.  

He arrived in the teaching profession after training at St John’s College in York the following year.  His sporting abilities took him firstly into Physical Education, where his teaching career began in his native Doncaster area. There he met and married Ivy Clay, who became mother of Neal, Kevin and Andrew, all former pupils of Tadcaster Grammar School.  

And whilst working in Highfields Secondary he began to discover his strong natural tenor voice, making his first 78-rpm recording in the school hall with fellow teacher Arthur Evans.

A few years and a few slipped discs later, Ron left the demanding world of Physical Education for primary teaching, moving to Sherburn in Elmet and then on to Ulleskelf where he would live out his teaching days as a headmaster of its Church of England Primary School.  He saw the school grow and shrink as the fortunes of that rural community varied, but was most of all proud to have built the swimming pool that taught a village how to swim; bringing enjoyment to all who stayed behind after school during the summer term for a splash in the sun.  His traditional teaching methods and service to the village’s Church as its warden made him a central figure in community life, earning the respect and loyalty of villagers and pupils. Here are 2 quotes from former pupils who recently heard of his passing and some up his legacy to those children:

“Every child at school liked him - his voice had authority but he was always smiling, and he was a brilliant teacher.  He taught me values and skills and I'm sure he continued to do that for others long after I had left.  I loved every day of my time at Ulleskelf.”

“He gave us such a fantastic start in life, a good education, getting us into grammar school, music, theatre and drama, swimming.  He did wonderful things for the school and the children. ”     

But outside of school life his passion for singing took him to prominence in Tadcaster’s Operatic Society.  From 1965 to 1991 most years would see him in a leading role in the Riley Smith Hall.  One year the Red Shadow, the next the Student Prince, the next Curly in Oklahoma, there was nothing his enthusiastic acting and lyrical singing couldn’t tackle… although the assistance of an appropriate toupee became more important as the years passed.  One of the highlights of his singing career was his lead performance in the Desert Song at York’s Theatre Royal in 1971.  

As the years passed by he found his talents could stretch to new roles, ending with his most loved rendering of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.  From leading the singing in the school assembly, to choral performances at the Albert Hall, that voice became the signature on his life’s canvas.

Ron’s teaching career ended prematurely when he retired to look after Ivy, his well-loved wife and local piano teacher, who died aged 56 in 1982.  Her loss was deeply mourned within Tadcaster’s teaching community  Together their partnership rode many of life’s storms, taking pleasure in nurturing their 3 tall boys who followed in their footsteps as well known local musicians and sportmen.

As life went on, Ron’s alter-ego as a romantic tenor materialised in real life when he met up and married his earlier childhood sweetheart, Pat Greenbank, daughter of the woman who had taught him to sing in a Doncaster church choir 50 years previously.  

This wonderful reunion led to the last adventurous phase of Ron’s life, when retirement enabled many years of gentle sport and worldwide travel.  His lifelong enthusiasm for geography became a passion for touring and cruising, helping him to visit many corners of the globe and developing notoriety for his permanent sun tan!  

Six years ago Ron was diagnosed with a cancer that was spreading to his liver and threatening his life.  Slowly it overtook medical attempts to halt its growth and most recently frustrated his attempts to live life to the full.  His last days found solace and comfort through the support of St Barnabas Hospice in Lincoln.

Ron died with his wife and sons were by his side, proud of their faithful husband and father, whose life was marked by a duty and respectfulness formed by his own upbringing, but went on to offer a unique skill and flamboyance that will leave his fond memory in the communities of Tadcaster and Ulleskelf.