Cover photo for Nelson Thornton's Obituary
Nelson Thornton Profile Photo

Nelson Thornton

August 9, 1938 — August 3, 2023

Wilson

Nelson Thornton

Nelson Ray Thornton, 84, of Wilson, died Thursday, August 3, 2023.

Funeral, Sunday, 2:00 PM, Grace Baptist Church, with a time of visiting and sharing beginning an hour prior to the service.  Burial, 4:30 PM, Lee-Johnson Cemetery, 866 Lee-Johnson Rd, Dunn.

Surviving is his wife, Reba Barefoot Thornton; daughter, Debbie Heath (Terry) of Selma; son, Nelson Ray Thornton, Jr (Ruby) of Holly Springs; step-daughter, Tiffany N. Vestal (John) of Greensboro and their children, Emory and Connor Vestal; grandchildren, Erin Jones (Jeramy) of Sims, Leann Pickard of Denver, CO, Trevor Thornton (Beka) of Richmond, VA, Jacob Thornton (Lindsey) of Fuquay-Varina; great-grandchildren, Keaton, Caleb, Kody and Clay Jones; Austin and Daniel Pickard, Evelyn Thornton. 

He was preceded in death by his parents, James Foster and Ioda Anderson Thornton of Wayne County; sister, Shirley Powell; brothers, James and George Thornton.

Nelson grew up in Goldsboro, attended Goldsboro High School, and joined the United States Air Force at age 17.  At the same time, he married his first wife Peggy Ann Sewell and he served at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, Thule Air Force Base in Greenland, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc/Santa Barbara County, CA.  Nelson received his GED during his military service. Upon honorable discharge from the Air Force, Nelson returned to his hometown in Goldsboro where he resided until moving to Princeton. He later moved to Wilson where he married his second wife  Reba Barefoot Noulles in 2007. Nelson spent his career primarily as a welder. He became North Carolina certified as a welder in 1973, and also achieved certifications for welding on nuclear plants in GA, NC, VA and TN. While in nuclear plant construction, he notably served in multiple positions as General Foreman, Foreman, pipe fitter and welder. He started and successfully ran his own welding company in the mid 1970s. In addition to welding expertise, Nelson was accomplished in other trades related to construction and he had expertise in automobile mechanics. He always enjoyed working with his hands, and his many career accolades demonstrated how skilled he was. In his later years he began welding metal art, specializing in crosses made of steel nails that were very popular with family and friends. Nelson enjoyed and was proficient in the traditional southern dances including shag, 2- step and square dancing with his bride, Reba. He was a lifelong NASCAR fan, enjoyed the outdoors, and his dogs, but most of all, he enjoyed spending time with his family. He faithfully attended and served at Grace Baptist Church in Wilson for several years.

Memorials are suggested to Grace Baptist Church, 202 Kincaid Ave N, Wilson, NC 27893.

Arrangements by Wilson Memorial Service, 2811 Fieldstream Dr. N, Wilson, 237-7171; www.wilsonmemorialservice.com

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Past Services

Visitation

Sunday, August 6, 2023

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Funeral Service

Sunday, August 6, 2023

2:00 - 2:45 pm (Eastern time)

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Burial

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Starts at 4:30 pm (Eastern time)

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