If NASA detects the mysterious sound of laughter echoing from the cosmos, it is because Tom “Doc” Thompson has joined the heavens and is regaling all of the angels with one of his larger-than-life stories.
Thomas James Thompson began his fabled life on Monday, May 13, 1935, in Albany, Calif. Born to Victor and Murel (Anglin) Thompson, he was youngest of four with three older sisters. He grew up in West Berkeley, his youth influenced by the Great Depression, World War II, and post-war era.
Tom graduated from Berkeley High School in 1953. That fall, he joined the United States Coast Guard. As a “coastie”, his maritime duties included serving as a coxswain on a port security boat in the San Francisco Bay and participating in missions in the Pacific as far away as U.S.-occupied Japan while on the USCG Chautauqua.
Tom married Joanne Lowry in 1955. They welcomed their first son Gregory in 1960, with son David and daughters Jaimie and Valerie following.
After discharge from the Coast Guard, Tom attended Humboldt State College and ultimately graduated from University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1965. He started working at Richmond Veterinary Hospital in Richmond, Calif., in 1966, bought it, and ran a successful small animal veterinary practice there until 1992. He was a member of the California and American Veterinary Medical Associations.
In 1992, Tom, his second wife Beth (Carmichael), and their daughter Becky moved to Wyoming. Thus, began the second act of his life; having retired early, Tom wanted to enjoy his golden years in a place that he cherished—a little spot called Turkey Flat on Buffington’s Turtleback Ranch near Laramie Peak outside of Wheatland. He had visited the ranch for hunting and fishing every year since 1985.
Though most Wheatland folk knew him to be a hermit, he was a renaissance man of sorts. One of his greatest talents was that of woodcarving. His sculptures of fish, mammals, and birds have been featured everywhere from art galleries in California to the Platte County Fair. Most of them live in the homes of his friends and family. It is uncommon knowledge that Tom was also a poet; he wrote humorous poems about his life on the ranch.
Tom’s life was an homage to the things and people that he loved. He reeled many a fish up from the depths of the ocean, often aboard his beloved old wooden boat, the Chub. He was an effortless freshwater fly caster and taught all of his children to fly fish. He lived for the October deer hunt in Wyoming. His closest friends know he was an infrequent and poor loser in the game of Liar’s Dice. He was a man who appreciated his rituals; he probably discovered the meaning of life while sipping Scotch and soda, watering his trees, and calling to the turkeys. He loved a dog’s head resting on his knee and a cat rubbing on his legs. Friendships were important to Tom; he was a faithful, lifelong friend to people he had known since childhood, high school, vet school, and later eras of his life.
On Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, Tom passed away from COVID-19. He joins his parents; stepfather, John Cornetti; sisters, Shirley Stadelhofer and Dolores (Cliff) Stenberg, Fritz and Virginia Stadelhofer; brother-in-law, Ralph Borge; nephew, Eugene Stadelhofer; niece, Christine Berg; grandson, Christopher Thompson; and many beloved friends in the great beyond.
His rich life is celebrated by wife, Beth Thompson; sons, Greg and David (Colleen) Thompson; daughters, Jaimie Thompson, Valerie (Lars) Pedersen, and Becky (Tyler) Crossley; ten grandchildren; sister, Martha Borge and her family; sisters, Dolores and Shirley’s families; and countless friends.
Tom lives on in a well-crafted story told with a twinkle in the eye. He lives on in each of his carvings. In the rattling of dice. In a fish on the line. In the sound of geese flying overhead on a cold night.
The Gorman Funeral Homes – Platte Chapel of Wheatland are in charge of the arrangements.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.gormanfh.com