William Eugene Thorp


William Eugene Thorp (“Bill”), 96, of Oak Bluffs, passed away peacefully on July 22, 2023, attended by his loving wife Lynn.

Bill was born to parents Grace Marie Pease and Herschel Edward Thorp on March 23,1927, in the small town of Paxton, Neb. He went to Paxton High School, and after graduation enlisted in the Navy to support the U.S. in World War II. After the war he received a dual degree, B.S. in electrical engineering and B.A. in business, from the University of Colorado, Boulder. His work in electrical engineering led to positions in New York City and Marblehead, and to purchasing a ski lodge with six friends in Franconia, N.H., called the Cannon Ball Ski Club. In 1971, he met his wife Lynn at the lodge. They were married in 1974, and Bill became stepfather to Lynn’s son Adam; their son Noah was born at year’s end. Bill worked at various jobs that gave him time to read and think; he was a night watchman at Cannon Mountain State Park; and in keeping with his interests in making handmade tools, he and Lynn crafted traditional Sweetser brown ash baskets (under the tutelage of Newt Washburn) from locally harvested brown ash trees, and had a small mail order business. 

As a parent he enjoyed sharing his knowledge and skills by practical application — including gardening, chopping wood, handcrafting baskets, hiking, skiing, and outdoor projects. He was known by friends and family for solving many homestead challenges with nothing more than insight and an adept use of coat hangers, duct tape, and leverage.

In addition to being a father to Noah and Adam, he also shared caring for five foster children (one at a time) who were waiting for adoption, to become of age as adults, or who needed an oasis between moves. 

Bill was also known for his encyclopedic knowledge, integrity, gentle, kind heart, quick wit, love of nature, and amazing recall of songs, with all their verses! He enjoyed sailing, birdwatching, plant and tree identification, collecting and eating wild edibles, cooking, and computing. He loved reading histories, encyclopedias, and dictionaries, which he recalled at length through his extraordinary memory.

As a husband, Lynn recalls a friend at the dinner table, equated and described Bill as “the defining outlines” of a coloring book, and her as “the color.” Lynn felt his loving support resembled the rudder of a boat that kept her on an even keel, while trusting her sense of direction. 

By 2000, Noah and Adam were grown, and Bill and Lynn moved to Martha’s Vineyard to be grandparents for Adam and his wife Elizabeth’s daughters, April and Angela. For the first few years, Lynn and Bill were live-in caregivers for three extraordinarily wonderful adults, Robb, Greg, and Martha. Once again, Bill’s gentle, grounded example was felt at home on the Vineyard.

Adam shares, “Over the years of my youth, William’s gentle guiding hand was ever-present through his commitment to work the earth we lived on and his love for nature surrounding us. While his wisdom was vast, and intellect second to none, he also inspired us through the joy he took in a successful day’s work. He embodied thinking first, applying logic, and then taking action. Yet he wouldn’t articulate this in words, he just quietly lived this. He was ever compelled by his curiosity to learn more and more from his readings, and then he’d build or grow the next item needed to fortify the household. He filled his spare time creating endless handmade tools of his own designs, and gardens that only a true farmer could sow. He also enjoyed sailing, skiing, hiking, birdwatching, cooking, and working the land we lived on through our childhood and adulthood — he has been the guiding hand we learned from and needed in our lives.

“As my family began, I was infinitely fortunate that he and my mom moved to our town, where he continued nurturing my family as he guided my wife Elizabeth, her daughter April, and our daughter Angela in his new role as Grandpapa. His steady, gentle guidance continued, as he had done with me, to help our daughter Angela blossom, showing her the beauties and intricacies of nature and the joys of living in harmony within it. But the biggest gift he gave us all is his unwavering commitment and love for my and my brother Noah’s mother, Lynn. I am forever grateful for his love in our lives.”

Noah shares, “Dad is a deep inspiration to me on many levels. Although he chose a simple life, he never ceased to inspire me by the extraordinary brightness of his mind, which was moved by an eternally bright curiosity. He instilled in me an intrinsic love of books, history, and learning. In my youth living in rural New Hampshire, he surrounded me with a deep level of knowledge beyond what I could fully absorb at that early age — and I loved it! Forty-eight years later, I am still unraveling the threads of knowledge he introduced me to. There was no bottom to the rabbit hole of learning — only the depth I could make my way to at the time. He immersed me in his shelves of Greek classics and Commodore 64 programming books; he regaled me with graduate-level history lectures and the most confounding Easter riddles. He was short on spoken advice and long on embodying the example of living his values. As a life goal, he gently mentored me toward a wise, self-generated happiness based on kindness, enjoyment, and curiosity. As he grew older, he inspired me again in a different way, through his joy and gentle will to live all the way to 96 years old. He left nothing undone. He was a great man who thoughtfully walked an intentional and caring path through a long life. I am proud to be his son.”

Bill is survived by his wife Lynn Thorp; son Noah Jed Thorp and wife Kristina Rene Forester-Thorp; stepson Adam Tandler Hayes and wife Elizabeth Ann Hayes, and their daughters, Angela Lynn Hayes and April Lee Cerrato. He was predeceased by his siblings Mary Edith (Thorp) Morfitt, Robert Thorp, Russell (“Rusty”) Thorp, Dorothy (“Dot” Thorp) Craig.
In the afternoon of Sept. 5, the family will be holding a potluck and slide show for family and friends to gather in celebration of Bill’s life, and remember how much he loved good food! So bring a delicious something that you enjoy, as well as a story, song, or remembrance to share. We would love to have you join us, or send us a remembrance. 

To RSVP to attend Bill’s celebration of life, and receive details, or to send us your remembrance of Bill, contact us at rsvp@symbolry.com.

In lieu of flowers, the family would like to perpetuate Bill’s quiet, gentle love of nature with donations to Polly Hill Arboretum for the grooming of trails, flora identification, and support of their horticultural research. It’s one of our family’s favorite places to walk and picnic. Send donations by mail to Polly Hill Arboretum, P.O. Box 561, West Tisbury, MA 02575, or online at pollyhillarboretum.givecloud.co/donate.