Obituary: Thomas Thompson, 97, of Ludington.

December 17, 2021

Thomas Thompson

Obituary: Thomas Thompson, 97, of Ludington.

Thomas Talbot Thompson passed away in Ludington on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. For 97 years Tom shared his love of life, his business savvy, and his sense of humor with his family and friends.

Tom was born in Barberton, Ohio on November 20, 1924 to Cyril Chartres Thompson and Louise Hessert Thompson. He grew up in Barberton with his parents and little sister Mary. His father worked in a factory, and had emigrated from Liverpool, England, as a boy. His mother’s parents came from Germany. Tom graduated as salutatorian from Barberton High School in 1943. He volunteered and enlisted in the Army Air Corps nine days after graduation. After boot camp in Biloxi, Mississippi, the Army Air Corps trained him as a meteorologist at the University of Virginia as part of a grand plan to drop thousands of meteorologists around the world to gather weather information during World War II. It was a bad idea. Right after Tom received his certification as a meteorologist, the Army Air Corps canceled the program. The Army Air Corps then sent him to navigation and bombardier school. He graduated as a second lieutenant.

Tom was stationed on the island of Saipan during World War II where he flew missions as a navigator and bombardier on the B-29 Superfortress. He was discharged as a first lieutenant. After discharge he returned to the University of Virginia and graduated in 1948 with a degree in political science. He decided to go to law school. Tom wanted to go to the University of Virginia, his father wanted him to go to the University of Michigan, and his mother wanted him to go to Harvard. He went to Harvard. In 1949, while at Harvard, his best friend set him up on a blind date for the Harvard-Yale football game. She was a beautiful woman from Texas named Eleanor Zoe Allen who was attending college in Boston. They quickly fell in love and were married in 1950. Tom and Eleanor had three children and spent 54 eventful years together until Eleanor’s death in 2004.

In 1951, shortly after graduating from Harvard Law School, Tom was recalled by the Air Force to serve in the Korean War. He was stationed in Tachikawa, Japan and flew B-29 missions over North Korea, again as a bombardier and navigator. By then the B-29 was an old, propeller-driven model, while the Chinese and North Koreans had jet fighters. Tom flew 25 missions. He lost many good friends, and his plane often returned to base with holes in its wings.

After discharge, Tom headed to Texas where Eleanor and their young son, Tommy, had been staying with her family. He passed the Texas bar exam and went to work for Shell Oil Company. He expected to work in the legal department, but they put him in the land department, which turned out to be a good thing. He thrived at Shell for 19 years, working his way up to land manager of the western United States. While rising through the corporate ranks at Shell, Tom had to move his family many times, living in Houston (twice), Corpus Christi, Tyler (twice), Midland, Denver and Oklahoma City. When Shell told him they were transferring him from Midland to Houston for a third time, Tom resigned and went out on his own. It was 1973. He decided to move his family to Michigan where there was an oil boom. Tom was impressed by the Ludington State Park so he chose to settle in Ludington. Eleanor told him Ludington sounded nice but asked, “Where is Michigan?”

Tom worked as a land manager for other oil exploration companies until 1980, when he founded Western States Oil Company in Ludington. He hired Gary Worman and John Wilson to help him run the growing business. Tom loved the oil business, but he also loved the law, so he opened a legal practice specializing in oil and gas law. His law practice quickly grew and soon included Rick Randall, Ron Johnson, and Larry Konopka.

Tom retired in 1992. He sold his oil and gas brokerage business, Western Land Services, to John Wilson in order to focus on golf and tennis. Tom and Eleanor divided their time between Ludington and Fort Myers, Florida, and had a wide network of friends in both places. They loved a party.

After Eleanor’s death, Tom met another wonderful woman, Janet Winter Savage, and they married in 2006. Tom and Janet spent many happy winters in Florida and summers in Michigan. They shared a love of golf, bridge and cruises, taking several cruises every year. Their favorite was a two-week trip on the Danube and Rhine rivers from Budapest to Amsterdam. Tom and Janet could really dance.

Tom loved Ludington. He was a member of the Optimist Club of Ludington for 30 years. He joined the Community Church in 1973, partly (OK, mainly) because the Rev. William Collins was his next-door neighbor. Tom was president of the board of directors for Memorial Medical Center and was a member of Lincoln Hills Golf Club for 45 years. Tom coached youth basketball and later was the skipper for the fast pitch softball team he sponsored, the Western States Oil Company “Drillers.” The Drillers tore through the local leagues with Tom at the helm for three years in the 1980s, until they fell apart when their star catcher went to law school.

Tom laughed a lot and sang a lot–both loudly. He maintained a positive attitude despite many tragedies. His mother died in a car crash on her way to his law school graduation. His oldest son, Thomas Talbot Thompson, Jr., died in 1970 at age 19. His daughter, Terri-Louise Allen Thompson Solito, died in 2010, at age 56. In 2011 Tom wrote the story of his life to share with his grandchildren. It concludes, “I am happy (when I die, remember that).”

Tom is survived by his wife, Janet; his son, Tracy (Laura) Thompson of Ludington and their children, Miranda, Malcolm, Temple, Trent and Bruce; his son-in-law, Vincent Solito and his grandson, Tommy Solito of New  Braunfels, Texas; his nephew, Brant “Flip” (Lynne) Dauenhauer; and his step-children, Lisa (Dan) Cisko, Kathy Savage Thompson, Charles Savage and Steven (Judy) Savage.

Tom was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor; his son, Tommy; his daughter, Terri; his sister, Mary; and his parents, Cyril and Louise.

Tom’s family sends out a big thanks to the wonderful staff at Village Services, especially Barbara Luttrell, and to Tom’s special friends Kim and Jeannie Halladay. You made it possible for Tom to stay at home through an extended illness. His last year was filled with joy.

His funeral will be held on Thursday, December 30, 2021 at 11 a.m. at Oak Grove Funeral Home of Ludington with visitation starting at 10 a.m. Please respect the family’s wishes and wear a mask to the service. If you are feeling sick, you’re welcome to send your condolences through a phone call or card. Memorial contributions in Tom’s name may be directed to the Spectrum Health Foundation Ludington Hospital.

Please share your fond memories and photos of Tom at www.OakGroveLudington.com. 

Arrangements were entrusted to Oak Grove Funeral Home of Ludington.

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