CLARKS GREEN — Borough Mayor William Thorburn, or simply “Mayor Bill” as many knew him, could be found on most mornings sitting at the counter at Sunrise Cafe in neighboring Clarks Summit Borough, drinking out of his own special mug. Sometimes, he would chat with other guests and the staff, sometimes he worked on Sudoku puzzles and other times he brought his young grandchildren along for breakfast.
“He would order his meal last, so he could sit and cut up the food for his grandkids first, then eat his hot,” said Dawn Williams, cafe owner.
Thorburn died Friday evening, Jan. 26, after being struck by a sudden illness at home earlier that day.
According to his obituary, Thorburn “cherished” those times with his grandchildren at the cafe.
“Bill was a caring and supportive father who taught his children the most important values in life,” reads the obituary. “He was most proud of the families they created and his six grandchildren. Whether it was attending a grandson’s sporting event, taking his youngest grandson fishing, or playing ‘princess’ with his granddaughter, Bill always had a smile on his face. He was the happiest spending time with his family.”
Dawn Williams remembers Thorburn as “always willing to help – a great person.”
“We lost one of the good guys,” she said, adding the entire staff at Sunrise Cafe will miss him greatly.
“He had the best dry sense of humor,” said Colleen Blaney, cafe staff, remembering his many jokes. “And he was proud to be born on 1-23-45.”
“You could never forget his birthday,” the cafe owner agreed.
Thorburn turned 73 three days before his death and he and his wife, the former Maureen O’Neill, would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on April 20, according to the obituary.
A ‘champion for the borough’
Clarks Green Council president Joe Barrasse described Thorburn as “invaluable” to the borough and “a devoted man” who “never really had a bad word to say” and “always had a smile on his face.”
“He was devoted to his family and devoted to Clarks Green Borough,” Barrasse said.
The news of the mayor’s death came as a shock to all, including Barrasse, who said he was just with him at a meeting the morning before.
“I was away Friday night, and I got a call from the chief. …I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
Borough Councilman Keith Williams also spoke of the shock, saying council meetings will not be the same without “Mayor Bill” sitting across from him at the conference table.
“Bill was a true champion for the borough,” he said. “He loved this community and he was so passionately invested in this community.”
Attesting to the mayor’s caring and generous spirit, the councilman told of how, two years ago this summer, Thorburn personally installed a set of headlights on his motorized wheelchair because he was concerned about his safety going home after late-night board meetings. He still uses those lights, which will now likely serve as a reminder of the kind-hearted man who built them.
Thorburn, a Scranton native and longtime Clarks Green resident, was first elected mayor in 1998 and served on the borough’s council for about eight years prior to that.
Among his many accomplishments and contributions to the community are his participation in the planning of the Clarks Green Centennial Celebration, the restoration of a bell from the former Baptist Church of Clarks Green (which now hangs on display in front of the borough building) and the installation of the borough’s clock tower and pocket library in the pocket park across the street.
He was also a member of the Waverly Masonic Lodge No. 301 and the First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit.