Calling It a Career

On his final work day with the Wheeling Police Department last week, Sgt. Greg Thorngate was called into action to help a friend who suffered a medical emergency outside the City-County Building.

“I guess I was supposed to be there,” Thorngate said after preventing the man from falling to the ground and helping him to the fire department ambulance.

All in a day’s work for Thorngate, who marked his 25th year with the department this month. The 1982 Wheeling Park High School graduate also attended West Liberty State College before joining the city police force. As he retires, he said he takes away many positive experiences from the job and will miss the men and women who had his back while he worked his way through the ranks as a beat cop to sergeant.

“I worked with a lot of good guys over the years,” he noted. “When I was a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer, I met a lot of kids. Now they come up to me carrying a kid on their hip and tell me they remember me. That’s a good feeling.”

Thorngate has seen his share of tragedy, too, while serving the city. He said the most disturbing crimes involved children and the elderly.

“I put a lot of hours in looking for the rapist of that little girl who was kidnapped from North Wheeling. A lot of us have kids, and those kinds of things really get to you.”

As a beat officer, Thorngate said he never knew what the day or night shift would hold, but he said loved the work.

“I worked a few murders. We had two men to a cruiser then and on one call up in Grandview Manor, a guy had stabbed someone to death and started after my partner with the knives in his hands. Those are things you don’t forget,” Thorngate said. “We wrapped that case up in a day.”

Deputy Chief Martin Kimball has worked with Thorngate for many years and said he will be missed on the department.

“He is a very good police officer, well-rounded, intelligent and caring,” Kimball said. “He is a people person and went out of his way to help a fellow officer. He has been a good mentor for the younger officers.”

Thorngate said he’s proud of the Wheeling Police Department because “we solve a lot of crimes. We have a good completion rate.” He has worked through six police chiefs and believes the department will only get better with Chief Shawn Schwertfeger at the helm.

“I want to thank the city for the opportunity to do this job, something I have enjoyed It’s just time to move on,” Thorngate said.

During his tenure on the department, Thorngate found time to be a Big Brother for 16 years. He is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Saints and Sinners Club of Wheeling, the Elm Grove United Methodist Church and several local social clubs.

Thorngate will be trading one uniform for another as he will continue serving as an officer on a part-time basis for the town of Triadelphia. He said his wife, Erin, is a nurse and they are accustomed to shift work so things won’t change too much. The family includes son Braxton, 26, and daughter Jillian, 9. Thorngate has four brothers and one sister. His parents both live in Wheeling.

A retirement send-off for Thorngate will be held at 1 p.m. Sept. 13 in council chambers at the City-County Building.