Faye White is the epitome of the old saying about big things coming in small packages. In White’s case, that also could be construed as energetic things. Barely 5 feet tall in her stocking feet, she’s still a whirlwind of determination when it comes to her plans to honor American veterans this weekend.
Even a recent hospital stay isn’t slowing her down.
“I’ll never get tired of trying to help people,” she said Friday.
White has been working for months to arrange an Aug. 5 dinner where she’s asking 90 military veterans to attend. The dinner will be both a memorial to her late brother, Robert Thorne Sr., and as a means of honoring his fellow veterans.
It’s also another facet of her longtime community activism, she said.
Originally from North Carolina, White grew up in a family that spent a lot of time working with others.
“We were raised in a way that if we learned there was a need, we’d be there to try to help,” she said.
For decades, she was a tireless campaigner in Pennsylvania Democratic politics and continued in that vein after moving to Dover in 2000, where she has run for Dover city council and was on the city’s human relations commission.
A special big brother
To put it mildly, White has immense respect for those who serve their country: one son was in the U.S. Army, another was in the Navy. Her niece is an Air Force veteran deployed twice to Afghanistan.
But she reserves her highest admiration for her late brother, and delights in talking about him.
“His story will inspire young people,” she said.
Thorne enlisted in the at the age of 19 as a military police officer. Afterward, he became a Philadelphia businessman, but continued his ties to the military in the U.S. Army Reserves and the Pennsylvania National Guard. He later joined the District of Columbia’s Air National Guard and, following that, enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve, where he served with the Seabees construction battalions. He finished his military career with a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Although such data isn’t tracked by the military, White believes her brother may have been the first man living in Delaware to have served in all five branches of the armed services.
He died of cancer in Dover in August 2016 at the age of 75.
It was only near the end of her brother’s life that White became fully aware of his long and varied military career. She enlisted the help of the Delaware Commission on Veterans Affairs in getting copies of his records to help document that service and later, to help put the banquet together.
“I got this idea when he asked me to obtain his DD Form 214 [discharge records],” she said. “I never had realized he’d served in five branches of the service. I wanted to have a tribute to that.”
“She really wanted to do something to honor her brother,” said Sherri Taylor, a senior accountant at the department.
The commission is loaning flags from all of the armed services to help decorate the banquet room.
White’s getting help from others too: a three-tiered cake has been donated by the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino and food for the banquet will be courtesy of Dover’s Mission BBQ restaurant. The nation’s colors will be presented by the Dover AFB Honor Guard, and floral arrangements have been donated by Bennie Smith. Additional items have been provided by Walmart and Sunbelt Rentals in Dover.
Every one of the 90 veterans she hopes will attend the dinner will receive a large-print, flag-bedecked military Bible.
White recruited veterans for the dinner as she went about her normal business. She’d approach someone wearing a military uniform or anyone in civilian clothing sporting a military-related T-shirt or cap who could prove they were a veteran.
“So many people in the military have this way of carrying themselves, they call it military bearing,” she said. “It was easy to tell.”
And while she respects the contributions made by service member’s families, the dinner only is for those who can show they’re veterans or on active duty, she added.
White said any veteran interested in attending may call her at 734-2785 or 241-9559.
“If they call me, I’ll add them to the list.”
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