Wed, Aug. 12

Obituary: Douglas F. Thornsjo, Sr.

Douglas F. Thornsjo, Sr., a Corporate Attorney specializing in the nexus of banking securities and life insurance law, died Feb. 13, 2018, in Sedona, Arizona, at the age of 90.

Douglas skipped his last year of high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to enter the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology. Prior to that he served for two WWII summers as a Merchant Seaman on the Great Lakes. He was nominated by Walter Judd, Congressman, as a Midshipman in the Merchant Marine Academy in 1944. He ended that service as an Officer in the Merchant Marines in 1948. He accelerated pre-law and the University of Minnesota Law School graduating in 1951 with ALA, BSL, LLB and JD. He graduated 7th in his class of 430. While in law school he was a teaching assistant and an editor of the Law Review.

Mr. Thornsjo became an Associate at Root, Clark (subsequently Dewey, Ballantine in 1951 in New York City. However, when all Merchant Marine Veterans became 1A in the draft, he accepted a direct commission in the U.S. Navy. He was first assigned to G.W. Anderson (later CNO) and the second year he taught at the US Naval School of Justice. Rejecting an offer to remain the Navy, he returned to civilian life at the Dewey Firm in 1953.

In 1956 Mr. Thornsjo was named Special Counsel at Investors Diversified Services, Inc. in Minneapolis. He spun off Investors Syndicate of Canada and then formed and nationally licensed in record time Investors Syndicate Life Insurance Company. In order to use securities licensed sales force of the IDS he successfully opposed State Legislation that would have precluded the joint licensing of an agent to sell life insurance and securities.

He was General Counsel of Investors Syndicate Life from 1957 to 1959. By this time, Mr. Thornsjo was convinced that the sale of securities and life insurance were supplemental to each other. Hence, he started a complex of companies that provided security licenses and training for more than 1000 already licensed life insurance agents. He also designed products for life insurance companies.

His companies that implemented this strategy were Investment Policies, Inc., PIMCO (a broker dealer, and Consumers Fund). He was the CEO of each and for a time CEO of Midwest Tech. Developmental Company (a closed end fund), all in Minnesota. Subsequently he formed Thornsjo, Smith and Johnson, a law firm in Minneapolis. These activities extended from 1959 to 1965.

Wanting time for his growing family, Mr. Thornsjo moved to Portland, Maine. There he served in the Office of President and General Counsel for Union Mutual Life Insurance Company. In his spare-time he formed and managed First International Realty and Security Fund (Nassau).

He recognized the unique advantages offered by the mutual company format, wrote a book about those advantages, formed a down stream holding company and under the same created and managed a new Canadian (parliamentary licensed) Life Insurance Company and New York and Maine domiciled life companies offering non-par products. He also served as Vice Chair of the Legislative Commission to revise Maine Insurance Laws, as a member of the Maine Health Facilities Authority and director of the Osteopathic Hospital of Maine, member of the N.E. Council of Economic Development and director of St. Francis College.

Frustrated over his inability to cause Union Mutual to fully utilize the advantages of the mutual company format, in 1975 Mr. Thornsjo became CAO and General Counsel of Bradford National Corporation Bar Admissions to California, Maine, Minnesota and New York various Federal District and Circuit Courts and the US Supreme Court and the Court of Military Appeals were relevant for Bradford.

Bradford was the first and largest non-bank bank. This format enabled it to avoid the existing Glass-Steagall Act through trust companies based in New York, Massachusetts and California as well as a Broker Dealer, a large clearing corporation and life insurance company. Bradford also supplied automated services to State Agencies including those providing Medicaid.

Management lost control of Bradford, so in 1982 Mr. Thornsjo moved to The Dime Savings Bank as First Senior Vice President. There he created and managed its Financial Services Division. He licensed and trained personnel of the bank to sell insurance and designed consumer friendly life insurance and security products, but was still very profitable. In consequence, at a time when savings banks were in trouble, due to Congress granting entry into traditional Savings Bank product lines to commercial banks, the instant profitability of his division helped The Dime to survive without assistance from governmental sources.

He became a lifetime member of The Lotos Club, and served as First Vice President of the Greater New York Chapter of the American Corporate Counsel Association. As such he provided Ed Meese then the Attorney General of the US with a luncheon opportunity to understand the Administration's methods for appointing only highly qualified lawyers to Federal Courts.

In 1987 Aegon NV retained Mr. Thornsjo to resolve quality control problems with its California domiciled General Services Life Insurance Company. He served as Vice Chairman and COO. He also caused GSL to offer life insurance "wrappers" giving the owner of the portfolio of securities, the benefit of taxation as life insurance.

The Aegon policy of mandatory retirement at age 65 caused him to begin a new career as a consult. Clients included Aegon NV, New England Mutual Life and Barnett Banks in Florida. Two of these clients were acquired by other companies. This gave him an opportunity to focus on his home.

His wife, My Thien, rehabilitated an 1803 Federal in Kennebunkport, Maine. Her work, including restoration of murals in the home received much acclaim. Mr. Thornsjo kept busy as an arbitrator for the National Arbitration Forum, a director of the National Board of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Counsel to the Kennebec River Rail Trail and in his home town of Readfield as Senior Warden of St. Andrews and as a member of the Planning Board, Select Board and Town Manager.

When asked, he claimed his Eagle Scout Badge and his service as Mediator for the Maine Attorney General were the achievements he was most proud. Douglas is survived by his wife, My Thien; his daughter, Claudia Takacs; his son, Douglas, Jr.; and his grand-daughter, Patti Takacs.

The family requests memorials be sent to the University of Minnesota Law School. An online guestbook is available to sign at

Information provided by survivors.

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