Katherine Stevens Baker "Winkie" Thornton, 64, a church choir director who also taught school and wrote everything from contemporary music to food recipes, died Oct. 1 at Casey House in Rockville. She had ovarian cancer.
Mrs. Thornton, who lived in Silver Spring, was a member of University Park Church of Christ in Hyattsville, where she taught Sunday school, published Christian education materials and directed several musical groups. Her last group was Love Notes, an ensemble that performed at the 2003 Pageant of Peace on the White House Ellipse.
She developed a reputation for giving church music a lighthearted contemporary flair.
For decades, she was considered a leader in women's ministry among area Church of Christ congregations. She was a regular speaker at Ladies Day programs and other events in the area and across the country. One of her final ministries was publishing a series of evangelical tracts.
Mrs. Thorton was born in Denver, and a few months later, her family moved to Vienna. She was exposed to music at an early age. Her grandfather, Charles Troxell, was an oratorio tenor and choral teacher in Richmond. He also conducted college and church choirs in the Washington area. Her mother, Helena E. Troxell Baker, played piano and organ professionally and was offered touring engagements with several prominent musicians, including Liberace.
Mrs. Thornton, who had a soprano voice, sang in madrigal and other musical groups in high school and college. She graduated from McLean High School in 1958 and from Madison College, now James Madison University, in 1962.
After graduating from college, where she majored in music and biology, she taught science at James Fenimore Cooper Middle School in McLean for nine years. She was chairman of the Science Department and editor of the yearbook.
She also taught teenagers at Camp WaMaVa, a Church of Christ facility in Front Royal, Va. From 1997 to 1999, she taught science at Valley Christian Academy in Burton, Mich., fulfilling a long-held desire to teach at a Christian school.
In addition to teaching, Mrs. Thornton was known for her talent for making wedding cakes. She eventually was hired by ICBY, "I Can't Believe It's Yogurt," and J.P. Kakes Korner as a cake maker and decorator. She also worked in her husband's videotape rental business.
Several years ago, Mrs. Thornton accumulated recipes from different church members and published a cookbook. She also wrote a book of poems that she dedicated to members of her family before she died.
Survivors include her husband of 35 years, Steven W. Thornton of Silver Spring; two children, Geoffrey Thornton of Flint, Mich., and Tamara Dockendorf of Laurel; a brother, Charles Douglas Baker of Silver Spring; five half-brothers; four half-sisters; and five grandchildren.