Floral 20

Rosie Lee Thornton

November 5, 1943 ~ September 22, 2023 (age 79) 79 Years Old

Rosie Thornton Life Story

Rosie Lee Thornton was born November 5, 1943, the daughter of Myrtie Rose Ferguson and Lee Burnell in rural McNeil Arkansas. She was raised by sharecroppers and lived off the land, where she acquired a love of working with her hands; this started her passion for gardening, sewing, cooking, and decorating.

Rose graduated from McNeil Public Schools and acquired her B.A in home economics from the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff (UAPB). After graduating college, she was among the many HBCU-educated African Americans to migrate North for employment and career opportunities in the late 1960’s. She was among the first to break barriers in the educational system of Muskegon Heights Public Schools during the heightened time of segregation. She served over 30 years as a dedicated educator in the areas of Elementary Education, English, and Home Economics, where she taught hundreds of us to cook and sew. You remember those pillowcases, chocolate chip cookies, and short sets. During her tenure at Muskegon Heights Public Schools, she was instrumental along with her husband in establishing the Muskegon Heights Band Parents Association. 

Rose and John S. Thornton Jr. met in Muskegon, Michigan, shortly after she arrived, and they were married in 1971. You couldn’t go to a community event without seeing those two. They  were always the life of the party, and the party did not start until “The Thornton’s Arrived.” They partied together in matrimony for 52 years, welcoming the birth of their two children Kaja Michelle and Shaun LaDale. 

On the cusp of her retirement, she and John founded the Adult Foster Care Home JBC (named after their beloved neighbor John B). Another historical barrier was broken by being the first African-American owners of a specialized residential facility in Muskegon County. Where they have fostered and loved many persons with mental illness and developmental disabilities. 

Rose had a way of being loving and nurturing while keeping it real at the same time. She also instilled in everyone to do everything to the fullest with a no-nonsense attitude that would quickly set you straight. 

Often spotted in Gantos, Rogers Dept Store, Steketee’s, and Macy’s, with her sister Leola. More recently TJ. Maxx, Home Goods, and Hobby Lobby, her love for shopping for everyone was one of her biggest past times. She would love to come and decorate your home with a keen eye for fashion and design. She was known for her famous “Hot Tamales” and crab boils. She kept her yard pristine for family and friends gatherings and was the recipient year after year of home beautification awards from the City of Muskegon Heights. 

“NaNa” as she was affectionally called by her grandchildren and great-granddaughter (Issa Baby) enjoyed spending quality time such as making signature meals together like smothered pork chops & rice, neckbones, gumbo, chicken & dumplings, collard greens and hot water cornbread. Often feeding it to them with her hands. It was always a family affair when NaNa cooked, that often turned into a slumber party. You remember the pallets on the floor at your NaNa’s house. 

She leaves to cherish her legacy to her devoted husband, John S. Thornton Jr, her children: Kaja Thornton of Muskegon, Michigan, Shaun (Tera) Thornton of Springboro, OH, Tracie (Alvin) Webb of Grand Ledge, MI, Henrietta (Robert) Wilkerson of Muskegon, MI. God children Shantese Robinson of Kalamazoo, MI and Janna and Richard Wright of West Bloomfield, MI, and  Shanik (Aaron) Brown of Muskegon, MI. Her sisters and brother Leola Anderson of Muskegon Heights, MI, Barbara Burnell, Shirley Drain, and Donald Burnell of Saginaw, MI, Evelyn (Charles) Lee and Ada Lee of Columbia, MS, Joycelyn (Osa) Elaiho of Castroville, TX. Her grandchildren: Kelvin Webb, Kailyn Thornton-Daniels of Muskegon Heights, MI, Alicia Webb and Rachel Webb of Lansing, MI, Serinus Daniels and Donovan Daniels of Muskegon Heights, MI, De’Shaun Thornton, Tahnya Thornton of Springboro, OH, and great-granddaughter, her bestie Kinsley “Rose” Lynch.  She also leaves to cherish her memories a host of godchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, co-workers, and a boat load of Muskegon Heights Tigers. 

She accepted Christ at an early age and was a long-time member of Bethesda Baptist Church. 

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September 30, 2023

11:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Bethesda Baptist Church
575 S. Getty Street
Muskegon, MI 49442

Celebration of Life
September 30, 2023

12:00 PM
Bethesda Baptist Church
575 S. Getty Street
Muskegon, MI 49442


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