Peter J. Thornton, age 74, of Evanston, passed away on Dec. 5, 2018. He was the beloved brother of John (Gosha), Thomas (Monica), and James (Martin Goodman); loving uncle of Sean (Sarah), Paulina Heinkel (Wes), Tiffany (Sean Maley), and Hillary Eckardt (David); loving great-uncle of Cormac Heinkel and dear friend of Joseph Ober. Mr. Thornton was preceded in death by his parents, Peter W. and Catherine Thornton, and his partner, David Aguirre.
Mr. Thornton was born in Key West, Florida, during World War II, and moved to New York City with his parents shortly after the war. He was a greatly accomplished attorney, professor, poet, translator, and scholar.
Throughout his life, Mr. Thornton was a voracious reader and a serious scholar. He spoke and read, to varying degrees, eight languages: In addition to his native English, he knew Italian, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, German and Arabic. He attended Regis High School, a Jesuit high school for gifted students, in Manhattan, followed by a full scholarship to Boston College. He earned his Ph.D. in English literature from Stanford University, writing his dissertation on Milton’s Paradise Lost. Finally, he received his J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the law review, followed by a clerkship with the Illinois Supreme Court.
In his academic career, Mr. Thornton was a very popular English professor at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. In his legal career, he practiced for 36 years, specializing in utilities law, representing Exelon, the parent company of Commonwealth Edison, for most of his career, both in-house as an assistant general counsel, and as outside counsel at several prominent law firms: Eimer Stahl, Sidley Austin, and Isham, Lincoln, and Beale.
While he practiced law, Mr. Thornton never lost his love for great poetry. He spent nearly 20 years translating Dante’s Inferno from the medieval Italian to modern English, writing vivid modern poetry that remained faithful to the original. He spent nearly as many years translating the poetry of Petrarch, which was also written in medieval Italian. Again, he kept his translation faithful to the original while writing stellar modern poetry. Peter’s translation of the Inferno was recently published in the U.S. by Arcade Publishing, and in the U.K. by Barbican Press. His forthcoming volume of Petrarch’s Scattered Rhymes will be published in the U.K. in 2019 by Barbican Press.
Despite his great talents and accomplishments, Mr. remained humble and down to earth. He was scrupulously honest; steadfastly loyal to his friends and loved ones; and he will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.
In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to consider making a donation in Mr. Thornton’s memory to Gilda’s Club Chicago, which provides free support and programs for people with cancer, their friends and loved ones:
Celebration of Life: Monday, December 10, 2018 from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Donnellan Family Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Boulevard, at Old Orchard Road, Skokie, IL 60077.
Funeral Mass: Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. at St. Athanasius Parish, 1615 Lincoln Street, Evanston, IL 60201.