The Rev. Grover C. Thornsberry received a letter last summer from a man whom he had loaned $250 for groceries 10 years earlier.
The man had been out of work and had come to Rev. Thornsberry, pastor of Unity Church of Truth in Seattle, for counseling. Rev. Thornsberry loaned him the money out of his own pocket to tide him over, the minister's wife, Betty Thornsberry, recalled.
Now, a decade later, the man wrote from California to thank Rev. Thornsberry and to pay back the money.
By then Rev. Thornsberry had suffered several strokes and his memory had faded, but his wife remembered a few days ago how pleased Rev. Thornsberry was to learn that someone had repaid a debt.
"It was the completion of a responsibility," said Mrs. Thornsberry. Her husband, she noted, did not keep the money. He sent it to the Unity Church as "a love offering."
Rev. Thornsberry, 70, died Feb. 23 at Evergreen Vista Convalescent Center in Kirkland after a long illness.
"He was a very kind person, very outgoing. He did a lot for people," said Mrs. Thornsberry.
Rev. Thornsberry's daughter, Deborah Wright of Seattle, said of her father, "He was truly devoted to service. He thought of himself last, and everyone else came first."
Mrs. Thornsberry said she didn't know if the man whom Rev. Thornsberry helped out financially even went to church, but that wouldn't have mattered. Rev. Thornsberry was generous with his time and himself.
"He lived by Christian principles and the golden rule," said Mrs. Thornsberry.
Rev. Thornsberry was born July 17, 1921, in Fort Smith, Ark. He served with the U.S. Army in the Philippines during World War II, attaining the rank of master sergeant. After the war, he worked for General Motors as a union mediator.
He graduated from the Unity School of Christianity in Lee's Summit, Mo., in 1958 and served as pastor of the New Thought Unity Church until 1968. During that time he had a radio broadcast on station WCPO-FM. He was also a member of the Oakley Lodge No. 668, Free and Accepted Masons, in Cincinnati.
In 1968 Rev. Thornsberry arrived in Seattle, succeeding Donald O'Connor as pastor of the downtown Unity Church. Rev. Thornsberry had a Sunday broadcast on radio station KXA for about 10 years and is a former president of the Association of Unity Churches International. The Unity Church is a non-denominational Christian church based on a metaphysical interpretation of the Bible.
In the early 1970s, Mrs. Thornsberry said, Rev. Thornsberry founded the Unity Church in Anchorage, flying to Alaska to preach each Sunday after his Seattle service.
He also counseled jail inmates in Seattle and went to the Walla Walla state penitentiary to meet with prisoners for religious study.
"He was a workaholic," said Mrs. Thornsberry, his wife of 43 years.
His favorite pastime was reading, she said, "religious books, of course. He was a Louis L'Amour fan, too."
Though his vacations were short, maybe two or three days at a time, Rev. Thornsberry liked to spend his time walking on the beaches of Oregon and enjoying the rain forests of Washington state, Mrs. Thornsberry said.
He was a 32nd-degree Mason at the Scottish Rite of Free Masonry in Seattle and was a member of the Swedish Club and Washington Athletic Club.
He retired from the ministry in 1986.
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by a son, Mark Thornsberry of North Bend; a brother, Paul Thornsberry of Houston, and three grandchildren.
Memorial services are scheduled for 3 p.m. March 15 at Unity Church, 200 Eighth Ave. N., Seattle.
The family suggests, in lieu of flowers, remembrances to the Medic I program in care of Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, 98034, or Providence Foundation of Seattle, 500 17th Ave., C-34008, Seattle, 98124-1008.