If there is anyone who could be called "Mr. and Mrs. Savage, Maryland," it would be Dennis and Louise "Lovie" Thornton, who have lived in this town and served the community for more than 50 years.
Louise's family goes back six generations in Savage. Her great-grandparents came up from Virginia in 1900 to work at the Savage Mill, and they lived in one of the old mill houses on Baltimore Street. Louise's mother, Ellen Lillard, married Sam Chaney from Laurel, and Sam built a little house in Laurel where Louise was born. Then the couple was able to buy a 25-acre farm here in Savage at the corner of Windemere and Jefferson. The farm included a house in an advanced state of disrepair, but Sam fixed it up.
Louise remembers that as children, she and her two siblings enjoyed a good deal of freedom on the farm. They wandered through the woods, climbed trees, rode horses. Louise liked helping her mom shop for groceries at Storch's (now occupied by the 7-Star Market.) She attended Savage Elementary School (now Bethel Christian Academy). The family attended the Bethel Assembly of God church (in a building now occupied by Storch Realty). Church social activities figured large in the life of the Chaney family, as well as visits with the numerous relatives in the area. But Louise said she and the other kids considered Savage a pretty dull place.
The Savage Mill was in operation during her youth, and almost everyone she knew worked at the mill. Then, when mill operations shut down, the facility was turned into a site for manufacturing Christmas decorations, and Louise's mother worked there for a few years.
Louise never worked in the mill. After graduating from Howard High School, she was hired by the National Security Agency doing secretarial work, still living at home with her parents. NSA had moved its headquarters from Virginia, and many people working there were looking for houses in this area. So her dad subdivided the farm property to sell for home lots, giving each of the children a lot where they could build a house.
In 1956, Louise Chaney met a young NSA research analyst named Dennis Thornton. He had come to Maryland that year from Minnesota to work at NSA and was living in the civilian dormitories at Fort Meade. He and Louise were married 10 months later and took up residence in a mobile home in the Aladdin Village Trailer Park in Elkridge. Then a few years later, Louise's dad Sam built them a small house on one of the subdivided lots on Jefferson Street, and they moved there in 1958, where they started their family.
Louise stayed home with her kids while they were young; then she took a couple of church secretarial jobs. After the youngest was in college, she worked part-time for 10 years at Wintergrowth, a facility for elderly day care and assisted living in Columbia. As for Dennis, while working at NSA, he ran his own part-time business as a licensed contractor, doing home repairs and additions, some in Savage, mostly in Columbia and as far as Washington and Baltimore, getting referrals by word of mouth. After retirement from the NSA, he began working full-time as a contractor.
Each of their three children was born in a different place. Joel, the oldest, was born while Louise and Dennis were living in their first house in Savage. Their second son, Mark, was born in England while the couple was there for two years working for NSA. Back in the Unites States in 1963, with two kids, they needed more space, so they moved into another house built by Louise's father on Windemere Street – the house they now live in. They took another two-year stint in England from 1965 to 1967. The third son, Paul, was born in Colorado Springs, where the couple lived from 1971 to 1973, while Dennis was working for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Since then, they've stayed put.
All three sons have made their parents proud. Joel is now head of the art department at Franklin High School in Baltimore County and lives in Towson. Mark, who lives in the nearby Bowling Brook Apartments, is computer tech for a local firm; he worked at NASA for 20 years on the shuttle program. Mark also has 20 years of service in the Savage Volunteer Fire Company with a current rank of captain; he has been nominated as assistant chief. Paul works as a systems analyst for Social Security in Baltimore and lives in Savage, just down the street from his parents.
Dennis and Louise now have five grandchildren; the oldest lives in the basement Monday through Friday to facilitate his commute to his job in Rockville doing geo-spacial mapping and cartography.
Louise and Dennis have a long history of community service. They are both members of the Savage Historical Society; Louise is active in the group, which has been producing a yearly historical photo calendar of Savage since its inception 10 years ago. Both Dennis and Louise serve on the board of the Carroll Baldwin Memorial Institute, and Dennis has been involved with the Hall for 30 years, still doing a good deal of the hands-on repair and maintenance.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Louise was president of the Learning Disabilities Association of Howard County for six years and was heavily involved in education issues, serving on the Board of Education's Art Advisory Committee and Special Education Committee. Dennis currently serves as treasurer for the Savage Boy Scout troop, and with more than 60 years of involvement with scouting, he has held just about every volunteer position there is. He also took a job with the Girl Scouts, after retiring from NSA, mainly as camp ranger for the day camp at Ilchester, where he was affectionately known as "Grandad Fix-it," but doing other jobs wherever needed. His hands-on skills were frequently employed at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, where the couple were members for many years.
Asked what they see for the future, Dennis, who is recovering from knee surgery, laughs and replies,"Try to stay away from the doctors!" Both say they would like to live long enough to see the Carroll Baldwin Hall restored to its full beauty as a community building.