[Note:Lois Thorne was a long time friend, supporter, and volunteer of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker. We have fond memories of her helping to butter the bread in the morning and passing out plates during serving time. The following was sent to use via email by her daughter in law and is reprinted here. Today one of her sons, Kerry, volunteered at our soup kitchen as a rememberance of his mother.]
Ms. Lois Thorne, an activist in Los Angeles since the mid-1950s, died early Saturday, May 14, of pneumonia. She was 79. Ms. Thorne grew up during the depression on a farm in Montana, lost both parents when she was 16 and worked her way through the University of Washington in the 1940s to become a teacher. She obtained 6 additional teaching certificates, including in Special Education, which became her lifelong specialty.
Lois was primarily active through the First Unitarian Church, and later, the Santa Monica Unitarian Church. She loved folk music and protest music. She knew folksinger Pete Seeger on a first name basis and corresponded with him until the end of her life; she also knew Woody Guthrie and Paul Robeson and helped bring them to perform in Los Angeles at the UU Church in the 50s and early 60s when they were unable to perform elsewhere.
While not herself a member of the Communist Party, her husband, John Thorne, was; and he was persecuted under HUAC, losing his job as a teacher for refusing to take the loyalty oath. Lois recalled being followed by the FBI while her two children were small.
She helped to desegregate Echo Park by co-signing a home loan for one of the first African American families to join the area. As a result, they received threatening phone calls for many months and were forced to have an unlisted number for years.
She actively opposed both the war in Vietnam and the war in El Salvador. She was a long time listener supporter of KPFK and was friends with Roz and Howard Larman of Folkscene. She also contributed to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, where her husband was honored with a plaque for his resistance to HUAC and the loyalty oath.
Via the Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Church she was active in the movement to close down the School of the Americas as well as many of that Church’s other peace and justice activities. She helped bring Father Roy Bourgois to speak in Los Angeles.
Additionally, she was an active participant in the work of the Catholic Worker, going twice a week to their kitchen on skid row to feed the homeless and assist them with their anti-war work. Even late in life, when chronically ill, she participated from a wheelchair in marches against the current war in Iraq.
She is survived by two sons, Robin and Kerry Thorne and their wives Camilla Cracchiolo and Cicily Gilman. She will be sorely missed and the world is a little less for her passing.
A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Church at 18th and Arizona in Santa Monica. Please RSVP to the family at 323-496-1360 or [email protected]
Los Angeles, California