When my Dad began Thornburgh Insurance Agency in 1980, I was 10 years old and interested in jelly bellies, my dog and spending time with my best friend. I had little interest in insurance. What I knew of my Dad’s career was that he, and soon after my Mom, occupied an office space along with metal file cabinets and heavy typewriters. Ross always maintained an organized, clean desk upon which sat a substantially filled Rolodex of his always expanding number of business associates. The office was originally situated on the corner of Winslow Way and Ericksen Avenue which was prime seating to watch the Grand Ol’ Fourth Parade.
It was not until after my Dad passed away two years ago, October 29, 2012, that I began to understand, and appreciate the importance of community as my Dad had taught me by example over the years.
It is well known that my Dad made a daily excursion to the post office. These walks were important in maintaining regular connections with fellow Islanders. Many times, these jaunts to pick up the mail would bring people to sit in front of his desk and look to my Dad for advice. My Dad often was one to deliver bad news in a way that was compassionate and diplomatic. Sometimes his direct manner and deep voice were intimidating. Often, he would tell a story for the hundredth time to illustrate a point—chuckling as if it was being told for the first time. Regardless, he maintained integrity which was the foundation for his business. People knew they could get an opinion without a sales pitch. After Ross passed away, one member of our community shared with my Mom that Ross had become “a pillar” in our community and would be missed.
Now, I sit in my Dad’s desk and although his shoes cannot be filled, I enjoy my involvement in our small, family business and in our community. During my childhood, I would stop in the office after school and now my nephews make regular visits. I wonder if they will want to one day work at the agency Grandpa Ross started well before they were born?
At the age of 44, I have lived on Bainbridge Island for many of the last 40 years. My education began at a little Montessori School which was located by Frog Rock, followed by Wilkes, then Commodore, and finishing at Bainbridge High before heading off to college. The following is one example of many to illustrate just how a forty year connection with this community is a gift that keeps on giving:
My high school volleyball coach, and mentor, began having children (two boys and a girl) around the time I was graduating from high school in 1988. Fast forward 16 or so years and could it be possible that the diaper-clad infants I remembered were now these same responsible youthful drivers just added to their parent’s auto policy? Fast forward again several more years and college transcripts, rather than high school grades, are submitted to the company to maintain the good student discount. Again, fast forward a few more years and these same “kids” have finished graduate school and are setting up their own households—the youngest one was married last summer and he and his wife just bought a condo here on the Island. Would I help them find insurance? Not only is the answer yes, but I feel a sense of pride in who they are, how they have been raised and helping them is an honor and an obligation in the greatest sense of the word. Now all family members are individually insured through our agency. And, let’s imagine that they one day become parents and when their kids turn 16… this connection to members of our community is truly rewarding and unexpected.