Former Aurora resident Pete Thornton, who now lives in Portage County's Freedom Township, recently was tapped for induction into the National Pinto Horse Association Individual Hall of Fame.

The induction will follow a banquet awards dinner March 3 as part of the annual Pinto Convention from March 1-4 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Pete and his wife Judy will motor to Oklahoma and hope to do some birding -- weather permitting -- en route.

For Pete, love of horses runs in the family. He grew up in Aurora, where his father Chuckie founded the Aurora Mustangers 4-H Club, and Pete's sister Char is still an active trail rider.

Daughter Julie actively shows her miniature horses and pony. As for the fourth generation, 9-year-old granddaughter Kimberly is also well known in the show ring, where she shows her miniature in driving classes as well as halter, trail-in-hand, and color events.

Pete, known to many as "Postman Pete" when he was a rural letter carrier in Aurora for 40 years, retired in 1999, trading his mailbags for saddlebags.

The Thornton family moved to Freedom in 1999 en masse. The Thornton compound was formed when son Russell and wife Jodi, and daughter Julie and husband Dan all bought adjacent land on Nichols Road.

Pete then began a new career as a barn builder, farm manager, foal imprinter, and most importantly "grandpapa." Four grandkids keep a family man pretty busy.

Granddaughters Mikayla and Emma were the first family leadliners, followed shortly by granddaughters Kimberly and Hwong Tao.

In his spare time, Pete works seasonally at a local tree farm and corn maize. His non-horse hobbies include birding and stamp collecting.

Pete began his Pinto career at 52 years of age when he purchased his first pony, My Sofisticated Lady, in 1992 and exhibited her at the National Show in Tulsa, Okla., just three weeks later.

He showed her in jumping-in-hand classes, his favorite event. Their success led to the necessity of his providing the jumps for Ohio Pinto shows.

Consequently, he created his own line of adjustable jumps, duplicated by other clubs, to meet National Pinto guidelines.

To this day, he hauls all the jumps and trail equipment to every Ohio show and regionals, where he and a crew set up, maintain and tear down the trail and jump classes.

Pete has served as an Ohio Pinto director for 25 years, and also is on the nominating and trophy committees. He also secures sponsors for the Ohio Pinto shows.

With Judy's help, he was instrumental in planning and hosting the Pinto National Convention when it was held in Cleveland.

At the local level, he has hosted informal trail and jump clinics for 4-H groups, and teaches Brownies and preschoolers proper and basic horse care.

He has spent time working with special needs children, an autistic 4-H club and all the neighborhood kids.