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Pete Thornburg, Long-time Montana Senior News Employee

Pete Thornburg

By Suzanne Waring

If you want to meet and visit with the nicest fellow, take Pete Thornburg to coffee at McDonald’s in Great Falls. He orders two Splenda and three creams with his coffee—or is it three Splenda and two creams. It doesn’t matter because the clerks at Marketplace McDonald’s know Pete’s order.

Pete Thornburg has been delivering the Montana Senior News (MSN) throughout the Great Falls community for over twenty years—or half the time that the newspaper has been in existence. With this edition, the Montana Senior News (MSN) is celebrating its 40th anniversary by recognizing Pete as one of its long-time employees.

Thornburg grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and met and married a Great Falls girl when he was working for the telephone company in Denver. All the time they lived in Denver, they hated the large city with all the traffic. They were hoping to move to Great Falls. They finally got their wish, and Thornburg was transferred in 1985. It wasn’t long after that the telephone company started downsizing, and Thornburg’s job became part-time.

To supplement his income, he started delivering Malmstrom Air Force Base’s High Plains Warrior to distribution sites. That experience led to the Malmstrom hotel’s manager recommending Thornburg for also delivering the Montana Senior News. He started delivering MSN in 2003, and he has been delivering it to 400 sites since.

Thornburg receives a readout of delivery sites from the Great Falls manager. Using it, he sets up a route to deliver to Great Falls’ businesses, churches, medical centers, restaurants, museums, and the Senior Citizen Center. At the Senior Citizen Center, he makes a delivery of 50 copies twice through the delivery cycle of eight weeks. “I wish people knew that they can take copies when they start reading articles and want to finish reading the newspaper. Copies can be replenished,” said Thornburg. “Our objective is to get copies of the Montana Senior News into the hands of readers.”

Delivery of MSN hasn’t changed much over the twenty years. “I have stopped delivery at some sites when they go out of business, but I have added others. I use my own car, and I usually work part-time six out of eight weeks of a delivery cycle. Toward the end of a cycle, I go back to a few sites. All together, I deliver approximately 3,000 copies of the Montana Senior News to the Great Falls community,” Thornburg said. “I keep track of my hours and mileage.”

Thornburg warms to the thought of the wonderful people he meets along his route. “Everyone is friendly, but I do want to mention Pacific Cataract and the Native American Welcoming Center because they are my two favorite sites. The people there are quick to greet me, so I always stop to visit with them for a few minutes.”

Thornburg has two challenges. Sometimes the weather is icy and stormy in the winter. “I have learned to wait several days, and the weather always improves,” Thornburg said.

The other challenge can be the traffic. He had the misfortune of being in a car accident while delivering the MSN. He had entered the left-turn lane leading to the parking lot of the Westside McDonald’s when a car came from behind, hit his car, and then sped away. However, the vehicle lost its bumper along with the license plate in the accident. It wasn’t difficult to find the driver. Thornburg’s car was totaled. “If anything good came out of the accident, it was that I was able to purchase a car with features that are even better for newspaper delivery,” Thornburg said.
After the accident, Thornburg wasn’t feeling up to par. Then he met Maryann Bross at the Peak Health and Wellness Center. She showed him what exercises and the number of repetitions he should be doing. “The exercise workouts are amazing,” said Thornburg, “I feel like doing the work of delivering newspapers again.”

Thornburg says that he doesn’t have a date in mind as to when he might retire from delivering the MSN. Right now he is happy with his part-time job because it helps put routine into his retirement life and gets him out, seeing people.

If you see Pete when he’s out delivering, give him a big greeting. He’ll enjoy that. If you want to take him to coffee at Marketplace McDonald’s, remember it’s three Splenda and two creams—or is it two Splenda and three creams. Maybe you should ask him how he likes his coffee; he’ll tell you. MSN

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