Richard Thorbeck


Richard Thorbeck was born in Bemidj, Minnesota on January 9, 1949 to Ray Leonard Thorbeck and Margaret Jane Thorbeck. On April 21, 2022, Richard passed away at his home with his wife, Sharon, and his three Persian cats, Lanny, Manny and Fanny, at his side, providing regular CAT Scans throughout his illness.

Richard is survived by his wife Sharon, his sister Mary Margaret (Molly) Higgins (Duane), his brother John Thorbeck (Joanne) and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and many great friends. Richard was preceded in death by his father, Ray Leonard Thorbeck, his mother, Margaret Thorbeck, and his brother, Robert Thorbeck.

Richard married Tandra Joy Bahr (decreased) in December 1981 and they divorced July 1994. He married his soul mate and the love of his life, Sharon Wolfe Leigh, in October 1997.

Richard fought a brave, courageous and difficult battle with cancer. He possessed a great will to live and although some may say cancer won, we would rather think that God won, because he now has Richard in heaven and heaven will never be the same again. There will never be another like Richard Thorbeck.

After graduating high school in Bemidji, Minnesota, Richard enlisted in the United States Army serving two tours in Vietnam from 1968 to 1971. He went to Basic Training at Fort Polk, LA., Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Gordon, GA., and jungle training in Panama. He initially received two Military Occupational Specialties, Eleven Bravo (Infantry) and Eleven Charlie (Mortar Man). He was a distinguished Marksman and was promoted to PFC straight out of Basic Training.

He was assigned to the First Division (Bloody Red One), when their colors went back to the States, he was assigned to the 101st (Screaming Eagles) and his last assignment was to Headquarters Company of the first Signal Brigade. His tours of duty included the Delta, the Highland, the Iron Triangle and Parrots Beak on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. He was in Cambodia all the way to the Phnom Penh. He went to the Plain of Jars in Laos.

Richard was awarded a Bronze Star by General Westmoreland, an Army Commendation Metal by General Abrams, the Vietnamese Presidential Award signed by President Diem and presented by a Colonel in the Army Republic of Vietnam. He was awarded numerous campaign metals, several with one or more oak leaf clusters. He received a Purple Heart, a Good Conduct medal and the NDSM. He made the rank of E5 (Buck Sergeant) within 6 months of being in country.

After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1977, he went to Salem, Oregon to visit his brother, Robert Thorbeck, and decided to stay for 26 years. In 1978, he began a successful career with the Oregon Department of Corrections, ultimately reaching the rank of Captain. Working at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, Oregon, achieving his Sergeant stripes, he moved into the Department of Corrections Training where he truly excelled. He loved his work and loved staff training. For many years he traveled the State of Oregon training all Department of Corrections Staff in the safe and effective way to manage the custody of inmates.

But, as a recognized expert in the field, he didn’t stop there, training at the Oregon Police Academy, Keynote Speaker at Correctional Conferences, and Swat  and Firearms instructor. Brilliant, talented, respected, with broad based curriculum knowledge, he was regarded as one of the most popular trainers. Richard retired from the Department of Corrections in 2003 and will never be forgotten by his students and friends. The “Tower 5” legacy will live on forever. (There were 4 towers at OSCI and at 6’8” Richard was nick named Tower 5).

But, that wasn’t the end. After his Oregon retirement Richard returned to work for the Federal Government in Seattle, Washington in 2004. Working for the Department of Homeland Security, having another successful career while protecting our country from Terrorist Attack. He retired from Federal Government in 2017.

In retirement, Richard further developed and expanded his hobbies of Artistry, Music (piano), Crossword Puzzles and Sudoku. Richard will be deeply missed as a husband, a brother, an uncle, a cousin and a friend.

Full military honors and burial at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland Oregon to be announced.

Donations of ones choice in Richard’s name to: Animal Shelters; Cancer Research, Swedish Hospital, Seattle, Washington; Hospice Organizations, Scholarship Funds, are appreciated.

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Care is under the direction of Penttila’s Chapel by The Sea in Long Beach, WA.

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