Ditchdigger’s Daughters

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Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Daddy—Donald E. Thornton (1925-1983)

Happy Father’s Day!   It has been 30 years since my Dad passed away at 57 years of age.  He was too young to die, but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him.  There are so many instances in which I say to myself, “What Would Daddy Do?”.  The answer to that question often solves the problem immediately!!  He was a humble man, an honorable man, and a person who saw the future for his five daughters (when no one else did).  With his prescience, he guided me and my sisters to careers virtually unheard of when I was a child.  Women as doctors?!  Black women as doctors?!  What a hoot!  Impossible!!

Yet, with his vision, persistence, love and determination, we realized his dream for all of his daughters becoming physicians (doctors).  That lofty goal was achieved over and over again in my family and is chronicled in my two memoirs, “The Ditchdigger’s Daughters” and “Something to Prove”.  Long before his dream for us to become doctors, he took it upon himself to get us out of the housing projects of New Jersey and build our home (with our Mom serving as his hod carrier).  He was a genius.  Daddy was a cross between Bill Cosby and Rocky. His indomitable spirit has lived on in each one of his daughters.  Although, we did not all become physicians, in one generation, he spawned two MDs, one oral surgeon (DDS), and one attorney (JD) and PhD., and the remaining living daughters of Donald and Itasker Thornton are all doctors.

He and my mother were a formidable team and great parents, as well.  I have fashioned my parenting skills after both of them.  Because they were lovingly strict, I have benefited from their life lessons and have taught my children those same lessons.  Education was revered in our family and it was our only way to get out of poverty and enjoy the mainstream world of privilege and success.  My son, is a physician and my daughter is a well-educated woman with Columbia and Stanford degrees.

I owe it all to my Dad (and Mom) who supported us, loved us, sacrificed for us and gave us a chance to succeed.

Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

May You Rest In Peace