Wanda (“Toni”) Imogene Casper Thornton (1930-2022)
Wanda was born November 28th, 1930 in an area of Little Lost River Valley, Idaho, called Bernice, (no longer around) about 5 miles North of Howe, Idaho. She was the 3rd of the 5 (all girl) children born to Clarence Durbin Casper and Delilah Jackson.The girls were Doris, Gladys, Wanda, Arlene & Jeanette. (Later, Delilah had a son, John, with her second husband, Harold) Thefamily lived in a small farm house in Howe. Wanda had several aunts and Uncles and their families that also lived in Howe. Shehas fond memories of going to their “Uncle Neph’s” store and gas station and he giving them bananas or candy. Her cousin Floyd Hansen was only 2 weeks apart from her in age and they grew up as best friends. She remembers having a few sleep overs with him until they moved. Toni always considered herself a “tom boy” because growing up she didn’t have any dolls; she played with trucks and other things with her cousin. Her father,Clarence, worked summers on the Little’s ranch in Howe, but was away much of the time. She remembers her Grandma Jackson saying she could see when Delilah and the kids were coming because the old open-top car would come bouncing up and down in a cloud of dust – “like a jackrabbit across the desert!” For a long time, Toni just had her two older sisters, Doris and Gladys.
Toni always did well in school. She remembered a time that she was scolded by a teacher in elementary school. She had worked through her reading workbook and while others were completing the assignment, she went on to the next section and during the allotted time, completed it also. She proudly went to show the teacher what she had done and the teacher exploded on her, condemning her for not following directions and doing work that she had not been instructed to do. Toni was deeply hurt and felt that rebuke the rest of her life. She often referred to it as a reason for her lack of confidence in making decisions.
When Arlene was about 4 months, Clarence moved their family to the “big city” – Emmett, Idaho where he worked in the local lumber mill. He had developed cancer, so he moved closer to hisfamily. It took 2 days for them to get from Howe to Emmett.
When they moved to Emmett, it was the first Wanda knew about the church. Her mother had taught them to pray since they were young, but this was the first time they were able to go to church. Many of her ancestors were Mormon Pioneers, and she always wished that she could have been raised active in the church. Thegirls started to attend Primary and other things occasionally. She remembered being asked to say the prayer once in Primary and being terribly worried about it for the whole week. Her mother helped her practice and it turned out alright. Wanda was baptized in Roystone Hot Springs in Sweet ID, (about halfway between Emmett and Horseshoe Bend.) She can’t rememberever attending Mutual.
Everyone was very kind to them. Toni can remember having Ward Teachers come in Emmett. Later, her youngest sister Jeanie was born there and a few months later, Wanda’s father died a just over a 1 year after their move to Emmett. It was hard for all the kids to see him get worse. The cancer was going down his neck. After he passed away, Delilah got $1000 in life insurance and a Social Security allowance of $7.35/month for each of the girls. She used $800 to buy the place they were renting. Delilah and other women, worked night shifts in Caldwell at a fruit packing plant to earn money for their families. Wanda’s mother worked very hard to support herfamily. It was a rough life. Delilah was an immaculate housekeeper. Toni said you really could eat off of her floors they were so clean! Delilah made clothes for the girls to go to church, but she didn’t attend much because she felt that she herself didn’t have good enough clothes to go.
Wanda had a friend Debbie Rynearson and together they would go to the grocery store where the Mexicans would play their guitars and sing. One day, a Mexican boy came into Emmett to work picking fruit. He was blond-haired and Wanda thought he was really cute. His name was Antonio Vican. Debbie, liked Antonio’s friend, Ricardo. In jest she started calling Wanda, “Toni” so Wanda started calling Debbie, “Ricky.” “Toni” stuck with Wanda, but Debbie’s nickname did not get the same result. Wanda became “Toni” from then on.
When she was growing up they had their favorite radio shows, like The Shadow, The Creaking Door, Fibber McGee and Mollyand The Lone Ranger. She can remember listening to President Franklin Roosevelt in December 1941 when the United States joined WWII. She liked playing jump-rope, kick-the-can and “Annie-I-Over.” She remembered something called the “Little white mule” that they used during the night so they didn’t have to go out to the outhouse in the dark and that it was the children’s job to empty it in the morning. They always wanted to empty it early before everyone walking by on their way to school passed their house. She can also remember that they had to watch out for rattlesnakes and black widows at the outhouse.
About 3 years after her father Clarence’s passing, when Toni was about 14, her mother married Harold Koskey. Harold hadworked on Delilah’s father’s ranch in Bernice, so she had known him earlier. Following her mother’s remarriage, Toni and the other girls got their little brother, John. Unfortunately, Toni did not get along well with Harold. Toni baby-sat for the Meyer’s family and remembered that Harold would sit outside in his car and watch the house late into the night until she was finished babysitting. She thought it was because he thought she was doing something wrong. When Toni was 15, she went to livewith the Gibson’s and their 2 children. This was the first time Toni ever had indoor plumbing. She watched the children, did cooking and cleaning for them and earned $25 a month. Gibson’s moved while she was working for them and she went to the new house with them.
Toni and her friends knew a group of boys including Tony Skoro, Tony’s younger brother, and the handsome, recentlyreturned sailor, Al Thornton. Although Tony later served as County Sheriff, and then as US Marshall, the three boys were typical for the times and as Al told it, when they drank together, Al was the designated driver… since he drove slower when he was drunk, while the others drove faster. Al’s buddy, Tony had had polio when he was younger and one arm was a little shorter, but Al said he made up for that by developing strong arms and he liked to fight.
When Toni was 16 and still in High School, she was on a date with Tony Skoro. He had drunk too much and was out fighting another fellow who had dared to dance with his date. While hewas out fighting, Al asked his buddy’s date, Toni, for a dance. Al was a good dancer and young Toni Casper really enjoyed dancing with him. We don’t know what happened to her date,but after the dance she rode home with Al…. They dated for a month and on Dec. 2nd, 1947, they were married in Weiser, Idaho just after her 17th birthday.
Following their marriage, Toni worked at various places as a cook. One summer, Toni and her sister, Gladys spent the summer cooking for a logging camp while Al and her sister’s husband worked the lumber. Unfortunately, at the end of the summer there were no wages paid and the summer job was a bust.
Al went to work at a department store cabinet shop and with Toni cooking and waiting the tables at a truck-stop diner on the night shift, they built a new home in Boise. He was called back into the Navy during the Korean Conflict and worked Shore Patrol on the trains moving recruits to Seattle. For a while they would meet at the train station in Boise for a few minutes while the train stopped and then say good-bye again.
Toni found she had a hard time having babies. After Randy was born in 1951, she had a nervous breakdown. Al got a change in assignment to a job at the Navy cabinet shop and the family moved to Seattle for the rest of Al’s service. In 1954, after theymoved back to Boise from Seattle, they were expecting their second child, Jeff. Toni was apprehensive due to the previous post-partum problems. She did always have bad back pain with each one, but luckily did not have another breakdown. Three other children were born to them: Kristi in 1958, Scott in 1962,and Sean Paul in 1969.
When Al was in his 30’s, through the efforts of Home Teachers and Ward Missionaries, Al was introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Al later said that he learned too much truth to not follow what he learned. Al and Jeff were baptized on the same day in October 1962. Just over one year later, the day after President Kennedy was killed, the family traveled through a blizzard to Idaho Falls where they were sealed together for eternity in the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After that the family were always active in the church and Toni and Al held many callings. Since 1960, Toni has served as a teacher and ward presidency member in Primary, Young Women and Relief Society; and in the Young Women and Relief SocietyStake Presidencies. She served as Ward Music chair and Ward Chorister, sometimes concurrently, for many years. Most recently, she served in the library.
Travel was a frequent occurrence in their lives as they went to work conventions, fishing trips to the coast, Sean-Paul’s football games around the West and to pick up their son, Scott after he completed his mission in Florida. They often visited children and grandchildren in California and Utah.
Toni has always been a go-getter. She took a few guitar lessons in her late 20’s and then went about learning on her own to where she was able in her retirement to perform with a group called the “PDQ’s” and later with the Idaho Old-time Fiddlers. She, Al and the rest of the group traveled to various rest homes and care facilities in the area performing Country and Western music”gigs” for the elderly. She was known for her beautiful voice and guitar accompaniment. Toni was a very good seamstress and made many of the cloths for herself and the children when they were young. Everyone looked forward to receiving one of her custom-made birthday cards each year. One Christmas she made Cabbage-Patch dolls for the Grand-children. Another year each of the grand-children got home-made pajamas. She has made remarkable creations in both ceramic and oil-on-canvas. She was an excellent cook and her potato Salad was legendary. Summer was incomplete without it.Walking was a favorite pastime, until her legs slowed down and the dogs sped up.
When Al retired, they enjoyed traveling around the United States to attend reunions of those that served with Al on the USS Thetis Bay. Each summer they would hitch up their travel trailer and head off for two to three weeks journeying to a new place to rejoin long-time friends. Along the way, they would visit Church historical sites as often as they had the opportunity. The trailer was a favorite accommodation in the Idaho mountains also.
Toni and Al were together in mortality for 67 years and 8 months. Al died in 2015 and Toni was already starting to suffer from a bad heart valve. She soldiered on living at home by herself for the last 7 years. Except for a few visits to Utah and a trip with Jeff & Daryl to Illinois to see her grandson’s family perform in the Nauvoo pageant, her traveling days were over.
Toni had an unshakable testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation. She looked forward to uniting with her husband, Al, parents and eternally to her descendants through the atonement of her Savior. She did all she could to share that faith with her family through prayer and action. She endured to the end.
On February 17th, after enjoying a meal with 4 of her 5 children and their spouses, her spirit stepped through the vail from this life to the next to join with Al in the next phase of Eternal Life. She will be missed by all that knew her and especially by her family and friends.
She was preceded by her parents & husband; two older sisters, Doris Limbaugh & Gladys Ingram; great-grandchildren Marshall & Isaac Stout and Paige Tinker. She is survived by her two sisters and brother, Arlene Rekow Osborne, Jeanette Hoffman and John Koskey; children Randy (Carrie, dec.) Thornton, Jeff (Daryl) Thornton, Kristi (Marion) Essman, Scott (Denice) Thornton, Sean-Paul Thornton; 16 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren.
The family wishes to thank her friends from throughout her life and especially all those that assisted since Dad’s death. Thanks also to the Boise Fire Department EMS team, Boise Police and Ada County Coroner for their efforts to assist Toni and our family at her death, and Bowman’s Funeral Home for their caring assistance. Special thanks to the members of the Great Sky Ward helping at the funeral.
Services will be held Saturday, February 26th at 11 AM in the Great Sky Ward chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located at 7200 Duncan Ln, Boise, ID. A viewing will be held starting at 9:30 at the same location. Interment will be at the Idaho Veterans Cemetery at 11:00 am on March 7th.