Audrey R. Johnson-Thornton, age 93, the force behind the restoration of Belmont Mansion and a respected figure in Black women’s service organizations, died Monday, April 8, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at home.
Born in West Philadelphia, Mrs. Johnson-Thornton graduated from West Philadelphia High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in human services from Antioch College, as well as a master’s degree in education from Goddard University.
She started out modeling in Philadelphia and was the owner-operator of a beauty shop that sold and styled wigs for performers such as Diana Ross and Patti LaBelle .She was married to Bernard J. Thornton Sr. The couple founded and ran Timberlake Camp and Ski Lodge in Lenhartsville, Berks County. The business provided outdoor camping experiences for thousands of underprivileged youngsters before closing.
Mrs. Johnson-Thornton received many honors, including the Martin Luther King Drum Major Award from the City of Philadelphia. She was a strong and proud Black woman committed to African and black history, said her daughter Naomi Booker.
Mrs. Johnson-Thornton’s husband died in January. In addition to her daughter, she is survived by daughters Linda and Rebecca, and four granddaughters.
A viewing was at the Belmont Mansion, 2000 Belmont Mansion Dr., with another viewing on April 20, followed funeral services at St. Luke s Episcopal Church, 5421 Germantown Ave. Burial was in Westminster Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd. Donations may be made to the American Women’s Heritage Society, 2000 Belmont Mansion Dr., Philadelphia, PA 19131.