BY REBECCA PALMER
WOODS CROSS — In the first hours after Troy Thornton fell from a ladder outside of his mobile home in St. George, he didn’t think he was hurt badly enough to see a doctor.
Hours later, medical professionals showed him X-rays of his lacerated spine and told him he should be dead, Thornton said.
More than 10 years later, 88-year-old Thornton spends his time knitting hats and scarves for the needy and creating concoctions such as fudge, candies and a personal specialty — pomegranate jelly.
Thornton has lived in Bountiful for almost 40 years. He walks, talks and performs service as if he were perfectly able-bodied. Except for stiffness and minor limitations in the movement of his arms, he is.
Thornton is a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he believes that divine intervention was made manifest during his recovery. He has written a short account of his experiences, which he keeps with photographs in a cardstock-bound booklet.
Thornton is retired from his career as trust officer at Zions Bank. Before his accident, he and his wife served a mission for their church in Nauvoo, Ill. He has also served as a bishop in a Las Vegas congregation and, on top of all that, has been a judge at beauty pageants such as Utah Junior Miss and Mrs. America.
While he slept in intensive care units during the first weeks after his fall, Thornton saw heroes from The Book of Mormon watching over him, he said. They were soldiers from the Army of Helaman, and dressed and acted just as the book describes them.
Thornton still remembers what they said: “We have been sent to be your guardian angels, to watch you through the night.”
“It was really a testimony to me that there were angels watching over us,” he said of the memory, tears forming in his eyes. “It’s a miracle, I really mean it.”
After those first harrowing days, Thornton was moved to less intensive hospital care and finally, home. He had to take speech lessons, and was fed through a hole in his stomach. He also had a tracheotomy. During that time, he was the guinea pig for several students training to be paramedics who needed to learn how to use the specialized tubes, he said.
“It was a holy nightmare,” said Rosaland Thornton, who watched from his bedside daily.
More than 2,500 hats and scarves Thornton has knitted and donated since that time show not only that Thornton made a nearly full recovery, but also that he wants to return the goodwill he received during his most painful moments.
His wife of more than 60 years draws a direct connection.
“He was saved to make hats, and pomegranate jelly,” she said, smiling.
It may be his modesty speaking, but Thornton himself is less sure. Perhaps the angels came to help him through his fear of the dark, he said, or maybe he simply hadn’t completed his earthly tasks.
Troy and Rosaland Thornton will soon move back to the St. George area to spend the rest of their retirement close to family, but with the help of Thornton Р and maybe his angelic friends Р hundreds of people in South Davis and beyond will be a bit warmer this winter.
*This article has been amended to reflect accurate medical information and plans by the Thorntons to move to St. George, Utah.