A Celebration of Life and memorial service will be held Monday and Tuesday, April 14 and 15, for Raymond H. Thorstenson of St. James City, who passed away on Jan. 6, 2014. On Monday evening, friends are invited to join the family for dinner at 5:30 at the St. James Civic Center to remember and celebrate Ray's life. On Tuesday, a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. at the Hope Hospice Chapel on Diplomat Parkway in Cape Coral.
He was born to Olav and Hilda Rovik Thorstenson, the seventh of nine children, April 13, 1929, in Sioux Falls, S.D. He attended Hawthorne Grade and Washington High schools in Sioux Falls before joining the Coast Guard in 1947. After finishing boot camp in Jacksonville, Fla., he was stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Woodbine, breaking ice and servicing the lighthouses on the Great Lakes. In 1951, he began working in the meat business which he continued until his retirement in 1990. In his younger years, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, archery and bowling. Later he added golf, dancing and traveling to the list.
Mr Thorstenson loved gardening and yard work and took pride in having one of the best yards on the block. He spent more years than he should have taking care of the yard, even against doctors' orders, but it gave him great pleasure until his health forced him to finally give it up. Of course, the list wouldn't be complete without mentioning the last few years when he spent hours glued in front of the television watching his favorite Atlanta Braves, Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Sitting with him or on back of his recliner would be his beloved dogs, Cooper, Cimi and puppy, Shuba.
In 1970, he met Julienne Benson who was to be his friend, companion, wife and the love of his life for the next 43 years. Life was not always easy those first years, not enough money for extravagances, not enough bedrooms with seven kids in the summers and varying numbers during the school years, but there were fun-filled days at Pensacola Beach, sandy carpets, cold showers after the hot water ran out, skiing on the bayou with friends and neighbors,and above all, there was love. They lived in Pensacola until 1980 when they returned to Sioux Falls to care for Julienne's mother. They built a home on the land that had been in Julienne's family since the 1890s and mom (Ann Krell) moved in with them where she resided until her death in 1987.
In the '80s grandchildren Laura and Max Miller were born and the Thorstensons were able to spend time with them in St. Louis where they lived and in Sioux Falls. So many loving memories of a grandfather with his grandchildren. In 1990, Julienne was offered a job in Jacksonville. They were back to the Florida that they loved so much. Ray enjoyed being a starter at Baymeadows, the golfing community where he and Julienne lived.
It was in Jacksonville that there precious goddaughter, Tori, was born in 1994. He said she was "our baby," the one we shared together from birth. He took her on the golf cart to pick up flags and after they would stop for fast food. Even after she left Jacksonville her parents would make sure she got spend time with her godparents for a week or two every year.
Ray and Julienne both fell in love with Pine Island the first time they came down to visit Julienne's sister and brother-in-law in 1994. They purchased a lot on Seventh Avenue in 1995 and built a home after Julienne retired in 2003. He loved it here, and was so proud of his home, yard and trees. Thankfully, he was able to stay at home until two days prior to his death. This was made possible because of the compassionate care given by the Hope Hospice staff, especially Patrick, Dale, Gary, Shirley, Linda and all the nurses that spent many hours caring for him.
Grateful for sharing his life are his wife, Julienne; seven children, Dr. Kirk Austin, Shari Polk, Raymond Collins, Susan Zakrascik, Eric Thorstenson, Kristin Miller and Scott Thorstenson; step-sons, Milton and Steven Benson; six grandchildren; one step-granddaughter; 4 great-grandchildren; and special goddaughter, Tori Graham; as well as one brother-in-law, two sisters-in-law and multiple nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Melvin, Richard, Olaf and Gordon; sisters, Mary Elizabeth, Irene, Evelyn, Betty; and step-daughter, Kim.
The family request that any donations be made to Hope Hospice in Ray's name.