It has been tradition for many years for a group of Beckley businessmen to get together for lunch every day in the downtown area. The spot for that lunch was Foster’s. Each man sat in a certain chair, as is common when visiting the same place repeatedly.

What is not common, however, is for one of those men to take that chair home with him, but that’s just what happened Wednesday evening at Black Knight Country Club, when the “Lunch Bunch” presented retiring attorney Warren Thornhill with the very chair he dined in for years.

In addition to the “Lunch Bunch,” hundreds of friends and family members gathered to spend an evening of memories and laughter in honor of Thornhill, who will retire at the end of the month.

The Beckley Area Foundation, along with United National Bank, who paid for the social hour, organized the event as a way to say thank you to the man BAF executive director Susan Landis considers a hero.

Thornhill was one of the original founders of the BAF and has served as legal counsel for the past 18 years.

“We’ve never paid him in any way, shape or form,” Landis said. “He didn’t expect it and he wouldn’t let us.”

Landis said the BAF decided to organize the retirement party in order to ensure the retiring attorney received the send-out she says he deserves.

“He’s a role model, a mentor and my friend,” she said of Thornhill. “I owe him more than I could ever repay. When he announced he was retiring from the practice of law, well, I just could not let a man who has done so much for this community retire without some kind of recognition. He’s been very important to the foundation and to the community.

“I hope he realizes how much he’s truly appreciated.”

Retired Circuit Court Judge C. Berkley Lilly asked Landis if he could speak at Wednesday night’s festivities — Thornhill spoke at the former judge’s retirement party in 1988.

“We’ve been close legal friends for over 50 years,” Lilly said of his relationship with the retiring lawyer. “We got acquainted when he came (to practice law) and we sort of grew up in the law together. Our oldest daughters were in high school together and my other daughter and his second daughter graduated high school together.

“He’s been an outstanding community leader.”

Even though he says he’s not much of a “party person,” the lawyer said he enjoyed Wednesday’s celebration, which was attended by his wife Carol and three children, Katherine, Lynn and Jim.

“It’s wonderful,” he said of the party. “My three children are here from California, Georgia and Richmond (Va.), so it’s sort of special.”

For Thornhill, who said it’s easier to start practicing law than it is to quit, the decision to retire after more than a half century was simple.

“I’ve had a secretary (Elizabeth Walker) for 49 years, and she wanted to quit,” he said with a smile, “so I knew I wasn’t up to starting a new secretary.”

Although some say retirement is the best part of life, Thornhill says he’s nervous about the new stage in his life.

“I don’t know how well I’m going to do at it (retirement),” he said. “I haven’t quite figured out (what I’m going to do with my time) but I have a feeling there’ll be some household tasks assigned to me that won’t be that great.”

Despite the hazy future, Thornhill says he knows what he’ll be doing in his first few days of retirement.

“I’ll probably watch football,” he said, referring to college bowl games.

“I used to have a cartoon in my office that shows a fellow at the TV and he said to his wife, ‘Honey, is there anything you wanna say before football season starts?’”

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