Mrs. Linda Dereng Thornton, 75, of Melfa, passed away Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, surrounded by her family and the love of her life, her husband, Kenneth “Kenny” Dale Thornton. Linda was born in Newport News, on June 10, 1948, the youngest daughter and middle child of Virginia Witt Dereng and Durwood Adolph Dereng.
From the very start, her kind, sweet personality was evident — her sister gave her the nickname “Angel Sister” because she was always well-behaved, a little shy, and willing to help anyone — human or animal — that she saw in distress. She even rescued dragonflies from cobwebs.
She grew up in 1950s America and developed all of the best qualities associated with that era: she valued her family above all else, never complained, loved reading, and gave freely to charities she held dear. When she was a young girl, Linda was a tomboy and loved cars. Her true passion was developed alongside her dad.
From the age of 4, she started playing music. It didn’t take her long to learn to read music and experiment with different instruments. Linda could play the piano, harp, cello, violin, and just about anything you put in front of her. Over the years, she played in many churches on the Shore and was often asked to perform at weddings. On one such occasion, she was accompanied on vocals by one of the Statler Brothers.
Scorchy Tawes, orchestral musician and legendary Delmarva reporter and storyteller, produced a piece on Durwood and Linda in 1992. At age 31, Durwood had lost his hand in an accident. He was disheartened because he loved playing the violin. That is until his sweet angel daughter, Linda, gave him hope and encouragement to pick up the bow with his hook and accompany her as she played the piano. She inspired him to overcome his adversity and turn it into a strength, and together they played classical and gospel music for the rest of his days. That was “Puddin’ Face” (Kenny’s nickname for her) in a nutshell; she took the time and effort and invested in people to make the world a better place.
Linda moved to the Eastern Shore with her family when she was a girl. Her dad started a job at NASA Wallops Flight Facility and she started school in Accomack County, graduating from Parksley High School on June 6, 1966.
Always a worker, she began working as a bank teller at age 16, eventually moving to head teller. Later in life, she worked for social services. It was during that time that she met the man who would become her destiny, Kenny Thornton, or “Puddin’ Head,” as she liked to call him.
Anyone who knew Kenny and Linda knew that where you saw one, you were guaranteed to see the other. They were a package deal. But Linda made Kenny work for her courtship in the beginning. After asking three or four times, she finally agreed to a date. She put on her signature Cover Girl lipstick, and he dressed up to take the girl of his dreams out on the town, and the rest was history. Pretty soon, the two were engaged and the modern-day Brady Bunch — he with his girls and she with hers — brought together the two families.
Puddin’ Head and her Puddin’ Face were married on Valentine’s Day 33 years ago. She dressed all five girls in her favorite color, red, and they joined their parents as bridesmaids and flower girls.
In 1994 she and Kenny opened Thornton Services and served the community in all of their HVAC needs. Many of their combined family and spouses have worked with them over the years. She loved all of her employees and like the mother hen she was, took them in under her wing. The employees loved Miss Linda right back. She and Kenny, aka “The Big Cheese” as she liked to call him at Thornton Services, worked side-by-side but never forgot to take time for the things they loved.
One of those things was a weekly trip to the movie theater every Sunday. Linda got a big tub of buttered popcorn and Puddin’ Head got the SnowCaps, and together they shared a soda. They traveled and loved family vacations. They drove to Vermont to watch the leaves change in the fall and visit the bridges. They took the kids and grandkids camping, on a Disney Cruise, and visits to Busch Gardens. They loved boating in the Chesapeake Bay. Together they saw the Grand Canyon, Bahamas, Niagara Falls, Mexico, Germany, and the West Coast. They loved adventures and they loved each other.
She was so proud of her daughters and grandchildren. MomMom Linda brought her love of music to the grandkids at an early age. To this day, they all still know the words to the songs she would sing to them. There’s no doubt that “Here Kitty Kitty, what does the kitty say? Meow Meow,” will reverberate in the living rooms of her loved ones for generations to come.
Linda is survived by her husband, Kenny Thornton; children, Traci and J. Mapp, Kelly and C.W. Savage, of Painter, Paula Lee, of Salisbury, Md., April and Jamie Woods, of Parksley, and Heather and E.J. Powers, of Painter; sisters, Holly Swift, of Mears, and Janet Kirchner, of Norfolk; brothers, David Dereng, of Onley, and Eric Dereng (Tess), of Carson City, Nev.; grandchildren, Chad Savage (Carolina), Cassady Mills (Joey), Carolin Aigner (Dustin), Kaitlan Woods, Stella Lee, Jacob Lee, Joe Mapp, Keagan Powers, and Lydia June Mapp; great-grandchildren, Carver, Colt, and Caliann Savage, and Casey and Emma Aigner; several nieces and nephews; and her work family and friends.
Linda was predeceased by her parents, Virginia and Durwood Dereng; brother, Durwood Adolph Dereng Jr.; brothers-in-law, Sam Swift and Dave Kirchner; and sister-in-law, Vickie Dereng.
Funeral services were conducted from the chapel of the Williams-Parksley Funeral Home on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, at 2 p.m., with the Rev. Glenda Turlington officiating. Interment followed in the Wachapreague Cemetery. A reception was held at the Island House Restaurant in Wachapreague.
Contributions in Linda’s memory may be made to the Eastern Shore Coalition Against Domestic Violence, payable to: ESCADV, P.O. Box 3, Onancock, VA 23417, www.escadv.org or to the Eastern Shore SPCA, P.O. Box 164, Onley, VA 23418 www.shorespca.com
Memory tributes may be shared with the family at
Arrangements were by the Williams-Parksley Funeral Home.