Cover photo for Jonathan Garth's Obituary
Jonathan Garth Profile Photo

Jonathan Garth

d. April 16, 2024

Lillian, AL

Jonathan Thornton Garth - teacher, explorer, brother, father, husband, son, gardener, waterman
and woodworking mystic - passed on to his next epic adventure on April 16, 2024. He was 79 
years old. Born in Huntsville, Alabama on March 2, 1945, Thornton and his family moved to 
Gainesville, Georgia in 1950 where he narrowly graduated from Gainesville High School.
Ironically, he became a celebrated high school science teacher for more than 30 years in
Fairhope, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida.
A gifted athlete, Thornton was a champion high jumper at Gainesville High School, clearing six
feet, two inches. He also won the discus and javelin events in numerous track meets. College
and his adventurous lifestyle did not gel well. After several attempts at higher education,
Thornton joined the Army, spending four years in Chatellerault, France from 1963-1968. He
achieved the rank of E5 Sergeant and was awarded with the Sharp Shooter medal.
The military experience sharpened his academic focus and after an honorable discharge he
began pursuing a degree in medicine at the University of Georgia in 1969. Soon, he became
engrossed in the peace, love, long hair and rock and roll culture. This experience altered
Thornton’s desire to become a doctor. Instead, he and his girlfriend (and future wife, MaryAnn)
loaded up the VW microbus camper and headed to Ashland, Oregon to immerse themselves
into the mountain lifestyle and attend Southern Oregon State College.
After graduating with a degree in education, Thornton and Mary Ann moved to Fairhope,
Alabama to teach at the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education. While working there,
Thornton persuaded the school to give him their 100-year-old library building that was due to be
demolished. He and several students dismantled the entire structure and moved the lumber to
Thornton’s acreage in Silverhill. He used the wood to build a redesigned house that still stands
His career path eventually led him to Escambia High School in Pensacola where he taught
advanced sciences for 20 years until his retirement in 2007. Rarely did he go to Pensacola
without running into one of his many admiring students.
In 1997, Thornton married the love of his life, Sharon Wright and the two remained married until
his death. Sharon was a balancing force in Thornton’s life and the couple pursued their many
common interests such as travel, art, sailing and being with family. Together they built, with their
own hands, an A-Frame cabin in Altamont, Tennessee using the wood from trees on his
property that Thornton cut at a local saw mill.
Thornton and Sharon’s children, Jonathan and Kelly, became integral parts of his life,
participating in his ubiquitous projects whether it was working on his boat, splitting wood,
shucking oysters or sitting on his boat sipping cocktails.
While he was extraordinarily passionate about teaching and frequently knew more about the
science of the body than his doctors, he was also a master woodworker, expert sailor and
boater, scuba diver, skier, custom builder, dedicated Christian and a friend to everyone he met.
Sailing was a major aspect of his life and his expeditions became legendary. He
circumnavigated the Caribbean, sailed the southern coast of Cuba, explored the remote reefs of
the Yucatan and took his family along on several of the excursions.
As a 15-year-old youngster, he built a hydroplane skiff out of plywood and continued his
woodworking craft until his last day of life. There are many fine pieces of furniture made by his
skillful hands that he has given to friends and family. His home in Lillian is, in itself, a sprawling
and awe-inspiring piece of structural art.
A man of myriad talents and great intellect, Thornton had an uncanny ability to predict the real
estate and stock markets. He invested well and was able to retire comfortably, in spite of his
school teacher’s small pension.
Anyone who met Thornton quickly recognized his extreme zest for life. He traveled extensively,
loved entertaining guests and was always either on the move or building something. Even as
Parkinsons diminished his ability to walk and use his hands effectively, he continued to push
ahead with seemingly unstoppable power. Seeing a man in his condition never giving up was
inspirational to everyone in his circle of influence.
He loved deeply and was loved and admired by many.
Thornton is preceded in death by his parents, Winston Fearn Garth II and Emily Thornton Garth,
his brother and wife, Winston Fearn Garth III and Deborah Sexson Garth, brother-in-law Allen
Campbell Brown (Emily) and nephew Winston Fearn Garth IV (Kelly).
Thornton is survived by his wife Sharon Wright Garth, his son Jonathan Winston Garth (Jamie),
his daughter Kelly Louise McCall (Chris), his grandchildren Peyton Angelo Garth, Harlan
Winston Garth, Micah Charles McCall, Kenley Louise McCall, Mila Avery McCall and his siblings
Robert Dodsworth Garth (Shirley), Thomas Fearn Garth (Susan), Emily Garth Brown (Allen),
John Felder Garth (Rhoda) and Frederick Dandridge Garth (Blair) and many nieces, nephews
and cousins.
Any gifts in his name can be given to the Lillian Fellowship Church.
There will be a celebration of Thornton's life at the Garth family home on Perdido Bay at 1:00 pm on Saturday, April 20, 2024. To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Jonathan Garth, please visit our flower store.


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