Edna Mae Thornton was born March 28, 1933 in Telfair County Georgia to the late Charlie Spencer and Mattie Lou Huff Bennett. She was raised in a large family the second child of 15 children. She joined Frances Chapel Baptist Church at an early age.
Edna received her Elementary and High School education through the Wheeler County and Telfair County School Systems where she graduated Valedictorian from Twin City High School in 1951. After spending a year working in New York, she entered Spelman College in Atlanta in 1952. She graduated from Spelman in 1956 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Sciences and a minor in History. Because she wanted to teach, she continued college receiving certifications to teach elementary grades one through eight, and high school grades nine through twelve. Edna taught school for thirty-seven years and retired in 1995.
Edna married Milton Thornton March 3, 1958 and they celebrated 55 years of marriage until his death in 2013. To this union three children were born: Sonja, Eric and Sharon.
Edna traveled to many countries, including three months in India as a Fulbright Scholar. She has also been to many states throughout the United States. Desiring to have her family worship together in the same church, Edna joined the St. James A.M.E. Church in Hazlehurst under the leadership of Reverend Cooper. Her husband was already a member there at the time she joined. She held several positions in the church and on the Waycross District, including Sunday School teacher, Young People Department Director, Missionary President, Usher Ministry President, Steward Board Member, and member of the Layman organization. She was also a member of the Waycross District Chair, and a delegate to the Layman Convention in Ohio in 1975. In her community, she was a member of the library board, Retired Educators Association and Chairman of Hazlehurst’s Community Recreational Board.
Edna received many awards during her lifetime. In 1977, she received the Missionary Appointments to the Office of the Supervisor of the Waycross District by Bishop H. I. Bearden. She also was awarded a service award in 1985 for contributions to Happy Land and the Senior Citizens Award from the House of God Church for outstanding community service. In 1995, she received an award honoring her for her efforts in, “service to education and enriching of the lives of students in Jeff Davis County.” In 2001, Altamaha Technical College selected her as Jeff Davis County Retired Educator of the Year, for her dedication to education, contribution to community, and commitment to public service. She was also given a certificate of appreciation by the Retired Educators Association for “Loyal and Dedicated Service.” In February of 2007, she was recognized for tireless enthusiasm, dedication, and hard work to St. James A.M.E. by Reverend Mathis and the Young People Department.
On May 15, 2016, God called Edna’s name and welcomed her into Eternal Glory. We know God is too wise to make a mistake and you have found comfort and peace. God’s Word tells us if you give to His people, He will give to you abundantly. We know you are in Heaven, a place filled with joy, jewels and riches … no sickness or suffering.
She was preceded in death by her mother and father, husband – Milton Thornton, Brothers – Walter Bennett and Deroy Bennett, Sisters – Charlene Briggs and Mattie Travis.
Loving memories of Mrs. Edna will be cherished by:
Three children: Sonja Renee Hall (Harry) of Lorton, VA.; Eric Kenneth Thornton (Monea) of Sugarhill, GA. and Sharon T. Lias (Joseph) of Sanford, FL.
Ten Grandchildren: Eric M. Hall (Makeda) of Fort Belvoir, VA, Talia S. Thornton of Atlanta, GA, Brittany C. Anderson (Andrew) of Auburn, AL, Leslie M. Thornton of Atlanta, GA, Cedric T. Hall of Alexandria, VA, Joseph L. Lias III of Ft. Leonardwood, MO, Jaylan M. Lias of Sanford, FL, Sydney Renee Lias of Sanford, FL, Emani M. Thornton of Sugarhill, GA and Roosevelt Martin III of Sugarhill, GA.
Four Great-Grandchildren: Mariah Hall, London Love, Meliah Hall, and Logan Chase.
Sisters: Ernestine Balkcom of Hazlehurst, GA, Olivia Gadson of Jacksonville, FL, Amy Kornegay (Quincy) of Hazlehurst, GA, Mary Cook, Janet Johnson, Valoria Bennett, all of Jacksonville, FL.
Brothers: Charlie Bennett Jr. (Dale), Reuben Bennett, Sr., Jim Bennett all of Hazlehurst, GA and Ray Bennett of Jacksonville, FL Special Nieces and Nephews: Shanee Williams of Jacksonville, GA, Geraldine Cue of Hazlehurst, GA, Marie A. Collier of Albany, GA, Jerrell Briggs of Hazlehurst, GA, Winfred Bennett of Jacksonville, FL and Javon Miles of Tallahassee, FL.
Special Cousins: Doris Pitts of Jacksonville, FL and Dorothy Harleston of Hazlehurst, GA, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.