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William R. Thurston

1996 Citizen of Note, founder of cancer support center, president of high-tech company

Bill Thurston. (Courtesy photo)

William (Bill) Thurston Jr., 102, a longtime former resident of Harvard, died peacefully April 6, 2024, at his home at The Commons in Lincoln.

Born August 31, 1921, in Brooklyn, New York, to Estelle O’Brien and William Thurston Sr., he graduated from high school in Connecticut and went on to college at MIT, where he earned his bachelor’s degree before World War II. As a result of Bill’s student co-op work at General Radio Company in Cambridge, the company requested that his war service be at the MIT Radiation Laboratory where much of the radar technology used in the war effort was being developed. After the war, Bill continued to work for GR and to pursue his master’s degree. Bill retired from General Radio in 1987 after 50 years; his last 15 years were as president and CEO.

In the late 1940s, at the wedding of a former girlfriend, Bill met a bridesmaid, Ginny Doyle, who became his wife in June 1948. They started their family in Teaneck, New Jersey, and in 1955 General Radio transferred Bill to the Concord office, which brought them to Harvard to raise their four children: Chris, Janet, Mark, and Bob.

Bill leaped into volunteering on a variety of committees and task forces as the town of Harvard was growing—his goal was to provide his children with the best education and growing-up experience possible. Starting with the Village Nursery School, and explorations of school regionalization, Bill eventually chaired the School Building Committee and was an integral part of the Bromfield School, and later the middle school, planning and building committees. He was a member of the Bromfield School Council, the Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force, and the Committee for Adequate Funding. Bill took pride in being a founding member of the Harvard Schools Trust, which continues to be an important financial resource for the schools.

For many summers, Bill and Ginny took their four children on cross-country camping trips with his creatively designed camping trailer and car-top carrier, allowing them to experience the vast beauty of this country and its national parks. After many years of family fun in sailboat, rowboat, and powerboat at their “Lakeland” on Bare Hill Pond, they donated the 3-acre property to the Harvard Conservation Commission to provide beach access to the pond for all to enjoy.

When Bill’s grandchildren came along, he and Ginny started planning for summer visits. The digging of a backyard pool at their Bolton Road home led to the creation of several acres of flower niches, fountains, and a koi pond.

The older grandchildren, in addition to time spent in “Grampa’s pool,” well remember the summer trips to Three Mile Island Camp on Lake Winnipesaukee, enjoying a week of rustic living with Grampa and Grandma. After the week with grandchildren, Bill and Ginny would spend a second week hiking and exploring at Echo Lake Camp.

Bill became an avid reader and participant in Great Books. In addition to the local chapter, Bill and Ginny traveled to the Poconos and Colby College for annual gatherings where they developed lifelong friendships.

In 1999, after losing Ginny to breast cancer, Bill created The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden to provide service, support, comfort, and inspiration to those dealing with cancer and to their caregivers. The Garden, which opened in 2001, has been an ongoing, ever growing venture helping thousands.

Later in 2001, the Garden was the setting for the wedding of Bill and Patricia Dealy Ladd. With Bill’s four and Pat’s seven children (and spouses and grandchildren) in attendance, it was a celebration of new beginnings. After four years in Harvard, they moved to the San Diego area and remained there until Pat’s death in 2016. Bill then moved to Concord where he remained until one month before his 100th birthday.

Bill will always be remembered at General Radio, in the community, and even in his last residence, for his generosity and for taking the time to learn names and know the people—he engineered with his heart.

Bill was predeceased by his wife of 51 years, Ginny; his second wife of 15 years, Pat; his son, Mark; and his son-in-law, Ron; as well as three stepchildren: Norman, Patty, and Carrie. He is survived by two daughters, Christine and Janet; by his son, Bob; and four stepchildren: Betsey, Jim, Chris, and Susan, their spouses, 29 grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother Jim and his family.

A celebration of Bill’s life will be held Saturday, May 4, from 2 to 5 p.m. at The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden and Cancer Support Center at 145 Bolton Road, Harvard. Casual conversation, shared stories, light refreshments, and a chance to visit the gardens are the plan of the day. Comfortable dress appropriate for the weather is welcome.

To leave a memory of Bill and to read his full obituary, go to badgerfuneral.com.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden and Cancer Support Center, 145 Bolton Road, Harvard MA 01451 (healinggardensupport.org).

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