John Lowell Thorsness was born on October 1, 1923 in Cumberland, WI to Dr. Arlo W. and Agnes Thorsness of Spooner. John graduated from Spooner High School in June, 1940 and the following September he entered the Freshman class of 1944 at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. The following year he transferred to St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. After two years, he returned to Northwestern University, but only for a brief time before volunteering for active Army duty. John was sent to Camp Grant, IL, Fort Sheridan, IL, and finally to Fort Benning, GA, where he completed basic infantry training. In March 1944, he was reassigned to Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and was given a rush course in organic chemistry before he was reassigned to Northwestern University School of Dentistry. Along with a number of other student soldiers, he was discharged from the Army in September, 1944 and he elected to remain at Northwestern, graduating from the School of Dentistry in June 1947. He set up a dental practice in Cornell, WI.
On October 3, 1947, John married the love of his life, Loretto Byrne, of Chicago, IL. In 1952, John’s father suffered a heart attack, bringing John and his young bride to Spooner where John would take over his father’s dental practice. Sadly, his father passed away the following year, but John continued to practice dentistry in Spooner until his retirement in 1985. He was fondly known as “Doc” to friends and family. He was active in the Wisconsin Dental Society and one of his many professional achievements was being named a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.
John continued to serve his country as a member of the National Guard, the Army Reserves, and retired from the Reserves as a Colonel in the Army Dental Corps. He proudly served in the Army, either active or reserve, for 35 years. His last assignment was as a Mobilization Designee Commander of the Dental Activity at Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, CO. Colonel Thorsness received numerous medals and awards for his service.
Dr. Thorsness was an active volunteer in his community. He was elected many times to city council, served on the hospital board, and was elected to serve the students of the Spooner School District as a member of the Spooner Board of Education, much of the time serving as the Board’s President. When he retired from the Board in 1985, he was humbled to be named a member of the National Honor Society and was recognized for his long tenure of over 35 years on the Board.
John and Loretto lived in Spooner for more than fifty years together. In later years, as they both faced health difficulties, they moved to be nearer to family. They had a loving and caring marriage which lasted 65 years until Laury’s death in 2013. As a younger man, Doc loved to spend time fishing on Lake Superior, completing woodworking projects, hunting duck or pheasants in the woods of Northern Wisconsin, and enjoying his growing family at the cottage he built on Shell Lake. He had a great interest in genealogy and researched his family’s ancestry back to Norway for several centuries.
Doc is survived by four children: Patricia Owens of Mauston, WI, Arlo (Kim) Thorsness of La Crescent, MN, Dr. Kathryn (Mark) Schultz of Maplewood, MN, and Thomas (Stephanie) Thorsness of Eau Claire, WI. He was a doting grandfather to nine grandchildren: Timothy and Tony Owens, Bradley Thorsness, Tracey (Joshua) Smale, John (Elise) Schultz, Patrick Schultz, Brandon (Lindsey) Thorsness, Andrea Thorsness, and Tara Thorsness. Doc also leaves behind nine great-grandchildren: Tessa Kettelhut, Lincoln and Archer Smale, Sommer and Lilyan Swager, McKenzie and Ethan Schultz, and Ava and Hudson Thorsness. He is further survived by his sister, Dr. Arlene JoAnn Kostoch of Corpus Christi, TX, and six nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, wife, son-in-law Willard Owens, and brother-in-law Walter “Bud” Kostoch.
A funeral service officiated by The Very Reverend Father Phillip Juza will be held on Wednesday, July 24 at 11:00am at St. Francis de Sales Church in Spooner, WI with visitation at the church from 10 to 11am prior to the service. Interment with full Military Honors will follow at the Northern Wisconsin Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery. His grandchildren will serve as casket bearers.
The family wishes to extend their deepest gratitude to the wonderful staff of Ecumen Lakeview Commons in Maplewood, MN, where John and Laury had resided since 2011. Doc loved you all! They would also like to thank the caregivers and volunteers with Ecumen Hospice, who were so kind to our dad and our family near the end of his life.
Memorials may be directed to Ecumen Lakeview Commons, 1200 Lakewood Drive, Maplewood, MN 55119; Ecumen Hospice, 7541 9th Street N, Suite 200, Oakdale, MN 55128; or Spooner School District (“lunch accounts” in memo line of check), 801 Co Hwy A, Spooner, WI 54801.
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