A longtime volunteer, coach and pastor was recognized Thursday night as the recipient of the 2013 Book of Golden Deeds by the Neosho Exchange Club.

Tom Thorne, who is the pastor of the First Congregational Church, was presented with the award at the banquet at the Lampo Building, with his family and friends in the audience. Prior to the presentation, some of the guests were asked to say a few words about Thorne.

Karen Lane came to Neosho back in the 1970s.

"When I first met Tom, I had a 40 acre farm down in Goodman," she said. "My children and I had moved to Neosho into a 900-square-foot apartment. And going through a really nasty divorce, I was not allowed to get any of the food out of my freezer that I had just butchered or any of the canned goods that I put up. I moved on the Monday after Thanksgiving and I was looking at a very bleak Christmas for my children. I had a good job, but raising three teenagers, as most of you all know is hard financially, hard in every other way. I sat up at night, crying, with pencil and papers, trying to figure out with how I was going to come up with enough money to buy the food to fix my kids Christmas dinner."

About two weeks before Christmas, Lane received a knock on her apartment door.

"Standing in the hall before me was this gentleman (Tom) and two other people from the Congregational Church with six bags of groceries, including enough stuff, a huge turkey and enough things to fix Christmas dinner in grand style for those kids," she said. "It wasn't just a Christmas dinner and it wasn't just the food that filled my pantry that got us through that rough time. It was a random act of kindness of people that I didn't even know, I never met these people, and I had never been to this church. And to this day, I don't know how they found out the situation that we were in. I have suspicions, but I don't know for certain, but I do know this when Tom Thorne finds out that there is a need, he sees to it that it is met. And it doesn't have to be anybody that he knows, it doesn't have to be a relative, it just simply has to be a human being in need."

The kindness that Thorne helped with Lane was instilled in her.

"I have never forgotten that random act of kindness," she said. "And because of him, that one thing, I have spent this last 31 years trying to pay it forward. Thank you Tom Thorne for making me a better person because of what you did."
McDonald County High School cross country coach Darbi Stancell mentioned that Thorne was very respected.

"One thing that I noticed nearly two decades ago is that Tom was very respected and known by everybody in Southwest Missouri, Southeast Kansas in track and field," Stancell said. "I have never heard in all of those years, in all of those track meets and cross country (events), I have never heard anybody say a negative word about him. He has quite a few awesome traits, he is talented, he is athletic, kind, knowledgeable, hospitable, caring, he is a great family man, and in the capacity that I deal with him at, he is a very good example."

Neosho R-5 teacher Angie Paullus also congratulated Thorne on the award. She noted some of the "hats" that Thorne wears.

"When I think of Tom Thorne, I think of a man who wears many hats," Paullus said. "He has got his friend hat and that is the way that Jeff and I see Tom, he is a very good friend, he is always there, if you need help, you need to borrow something, or advice, he is always there. He has his preacher hat, I remember having surgery a few years back and he was right there, praying for me. He has his grandpa and dad hat, the Thornes are an amazing supportive family. He has his coach hat, which is probably my favorite and that is the hat that he wears most of the time, even when he is wearing the rest of the hats."

Longtime friend Gary Lentz said that Thorne has always been a good guy.

Talking to the audience, Lentz said, "Tommy has a big family, Patty (Thorne's wife), the kids, grandkids, but as a mater of fact, looking around this room, we are all part of Tommy's family in an extended way. And Tommy has made us all feel special in the way that Tommy can do."

Thorne was also presented with two letters written by Dick Keezer and Bill Dobbs. The letters were read by Neosho Exchange Club president Bill Doubek and Janet Penn, respectively. Rep. Bill Reiboldt presented a state resolution to Thorne.

Thorne then spoke to the audience.

"I appreciate the fact that you are here to honor me this evening and I know that my family is happy for me to receive this award," Thorne said. "I appreciate them (his family) in helping me. I appreciate all of the support that my family has given me."

Someone had asked if Thorne would sing. Instead of singing, he read a part of a song.

"The words to the song were: 'if I can help somebody as I pass along, if I could cheer somebody with a word and a song, if I can help someone who has been traveling wrong, then my living would not be in vain,'" he said. "And I think that if we would all take that to heart, do the things that we can do, we all have our own talents, and we have our own way of sharing with others and that is the thing that my family had instilled in me and the rest of my family and I hope that those words will work for you and your family. Thank you very much for being here tonight and blessings to all of you."