By Chris Edwards
TYLER COUNTY – Family members of a missing Town Bluff man have spread the word through social media, and given descriptions, along with photographs, of the 72-year-old Thomas Thornton. Thornton has been missing for a little more than a month now.
According to his family, Thornton is good-natured, likes to chat with people and has a distinctive, loud laugh. Like many men of his generation who saw combat in Vietnam, however, Thornton has a history of PTSD and a few other health issues that worry his concerned family members, since he did not take any of his medications with him.
Thornton went missing on March 24, when he was last seen leaving his Town Bluff home around 6 p.m. to head to Jasper, where he used his debit card at Brookshire Bros. According to the timeline of Thornton’s last known whereabouts, which were gleaned from security cameras and cell phone pings, he was last on the grid on March 26, when his cell signal was pinged in Shelby County, but lost after that. It is surmised that his cell phone lost its charge, and that is when his family and the Tyler County Sheriff’s Department attempted to get a Silver Alert issued for him, which was activated two days later.
The Silver Alert has since been discontinued, but Thornton’s family members are still asking the public to be on the lookout for the missing man. His niece Dana Lee Summerlin Hutto asked the public to check their hunting clubs and fish camps. “We are really hoping for some clues to lead us to him,” Hutto said.
Hutto said her uncle, who has lived in Tyler County for more than 20 years, enjoys fishing and walking in the woods, and of primary concern, medically, is the fact that he is in the early stages of dementia, which has caused his family to fear for his wellbeing since he initially went missing.
His sister, Norma Armstrong, said that her brother is dependent on his medications, and there is no evidence that he has had any of his meds since he took off. She also said that “Tommy,” as his family knows him, typically wears a baseball cap with a “Vietnam Veteran” patch on it, and usually sports T-shirts and carpenter-style blue jeans.
He stands 5’7” tall and weighs 255 lbs. Thornton drives a dark grey 2017 Ford Edge with the Texas license plate number NJJ-8580. He also has blue eyes and a visible scar on his right arm.
Hutto said the family is prepared for the worst but needs closure. Although there have been no updates in more than a month, she said that the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office has been nothing but caring and compassionate to the family during their ordeal. She praised the efforts of Sgt. Don Calhoon, deputy Travis Rice and Tracy Bump for working the case. Anyone with information regarding Thornton’s whereabouts is encouraged to call the Tyler County Sheriff’s Office at 409-283-2172
Hutto celebrated her birthday last week, and although she said she never asks for anything for her birthday, she wants to ask the public a “big favor,” and for people to be on the lookout for her uncle. She also said that if individuals work in, or visit, hospitals, nursing homes or homeless shelters, to be on the lookout for him and to spread the word.