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‘The force is strong with this one’ pins at funeral for teacher at Saratoga Springs middle school

OREM, Utah - Almost 1,000 people packed a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stake center in Orem for Dylan Thornton’s funeral Monday afternoon.

Mr. Thornton taught advanced social studies at Vista Heights Middle School in Saratoga Springs.

He started working there in 2011.

Students were let out early Monday from the middle school so both faculty and students could attend his funeral.

Many family, friends and church members spoke.  There was a separate room inside the stake center dedicated to Mr. Thornton and his family.  It had several pieces of Star Wars memorabilia because Mr. Thornton loved Star Wars.  It also included photographs of his wife and their new baby boy, Cooper.  They adopted Cooper in July 2016.  Thornton’s friends said Dylan and his wife had been wanting a child for a long time.  They were ecstatic when Cooper finally arrived.

“All he ever wanted was to be a dad,” 9th grade English teacher Natalie Thomson said.  Thomson has worked with Mr. Thornton for seven years at Vista.  “When he knew he was going to get Cooper he was so excited and he showed us pictures, and it was fabulous to see that dream come true for him.”

Another teacher, Sarah La Rue, teaches special education at Vista.  She started there five years ago and said she will never forget her first day because of Mr. Thornton.

“I'll always remember meeting him because he did this amazing impression of Matt Foley the ‘I live in a van down by the river’ guy from Saturday Night Live,” La Rue said.  “I was just a baby teacher and I was so nervous on my first day and he comes bursting through the doors in these dorky glasses and plaid blazer.”

La Rue said it made her day that much easier and more fun.  She knows no one else could have put her at ease that day like Mr. Thornton did.

“He was the best of us, and I think we would all agree that even before he passed he was the jolliest and the kindest, and he was an amazing person to tell any kind of news to because he could always kind of beat your own enthusiasm- even if it was something exciting happening in your own life!” La Rue said.

La Rue and the other teachers wore pins to the funeral that said “The Force is strong with this one.”

“It's hard to verbalize and quantify how our school is going to be changed," La Rue said.  “I hope that I never change.  I am a better person because Dylan cared about me, and he knew me.  It's like having the sunshine taken out of our school, like, how can we replace that?”

One of Mr. Thornton’s students designed a Yoda t-shirt and sold them at school so everyone who bought one could wear them at school this week and to the funeral.  All the proceeds will go toward the Thornton family.  He has raised over $730 for them so far.

Vista Heights Middle School also hosted a Star Wars movie in honor of Mr. Thornton Monday night at 6:30 in its auditorium.  A donation jar was set up there for his family.