A Celebration of Life will be held for Debbie at Trinity Lutheran Church in Waupaca, Wisconsin (206 East Badger Street) on Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 3:00 PM. The service will include “A Performance for Mom” by her son, pianist Jim Thompson, featuring several of Debbie’s favorite compositions. The family will greet friends in the church narthex following the service, continuing on to refreshments and a light repast in Trinity’s downstairs fellowship hall.
Expert baker, fine cook, supreme lefse maker, genial hostess, revered manager, arresting teller of tales, accomplished cross country skier, curler, golfer, ice skater and swimmer, trusted friend, devoted wife and watchful mother. Family and friends lost one fine lady when Debbie Thompson passed away November 14, 2011 at Oakridge Gardens Nursing Center in Menasha, WI, just shy of her 77th birthday. Debbie fought nobly against tongue and esophageal cancer; she won that battle, but the residual effects of the intense chemo and radiation treatment left her with dire systemic health problems to which she succumbed.
Once regarded as the champion skater of Old Taylor Lake, Debbie was always a champion of continuing education. She graduated from Waupaca High School in 1952 and went on to receive a Certificate in Food Service in 1973 from the Fox Valley Technical Institute/Wisconsin Vocational, Technical and Adult Education Program. Her studies were impressive: Food Service Assistant, Waiter – Waitress Institute, Food Service Supervisor, Assistant Chefs – Unit 1, Food Service Manager’s Seminar, Menu Planning/Therapeutic Diets and Labor Relations. Debbie was quietly proud of these studies and thoroughly enjoyed being a beloved supervisor and esteemed colleague throughout her 40+ years of working in Food Service Management at the Wisconsin Veterans Home.
Debbie married Russell A. Thompson in 1952. Russ passed away October 30, 2010. After some 58 years of marriage, Debbie lost her soul mate and, though she girded herself for the challenge, the last year of her life was mighty lonesome. Debbie missed Russ fiercely but was ever grateful for the comfort she discovered in other companionships, especially members of her Trinity bible study group, her jovial King Road neighbors, her devoted son and steadfast extended family. As the Waupaca community well knows, Russ and Debbie did practically everything together. They especially enjoyed golfing, summer lunches at the Harbor Bar, gabby breakfasts about town, membership in the Waupaca Country Club for many years, ardent membership in Trinity Lutheran Church (especially savoring the table parenting program), travels south for more golfing (especially Biloxi, Mississippi), observing the sly shenanigans of Fred the Cat, appetizers and cocktails in Russell’s Basement Bar, stupendous back yard picnics, memory-filled gatherings with former classmates and getting into plenty of fun trouble with their circle of loving friends.
Debbie gave birth to one son, James Eric Thompson, on April 5, 1959. Both Russ and Debbie enjoyed “Jimmy” from Day One — and spoiled him rotten to the end. They supported Jim through his education and career development and were best friends to him, always. From one coast to the other, the Gulf of Mexico and a number of places in-between, the three of them had one hell of a lot of fun together.
In the early sixties, double tragedy struck when Russell’s sister Helen succumbed to cancer and Helen’s husband, Willys Holmes, passed away just months after Helen’s death. The two families were extremely close, and Russ and Debbie were guardians for Willys and Helen’s two children, Elizabeth and David. With open hearts and arms, Russ and Debbie welcomed their young niece and nephew into their new home on King Road. The family of three became a family of five. Russ and Debbie parented Dave and Liz as though they were their own, relishing their accomplishments, supporting them in making difficult decisions, comforting them in times of great sadness and celebrating joys. They especially enjoyed watching Liz and Dave’s families grow, becoming, at last, Grandma and Grandpa.
When reflecting on Debbie’s life, work reigns supreme. While Russ was joyfully ready to retire from the Veterans Home and hit the links, Debbie retired with a fuss. Not to Russ’s surprise, Debbie went back to work, chalking up hours (actually, in total, nearly a decade of additional employment) at the Grand Seasons Hotel and the Waupaca School District. For Debbie, as Kahlil Gibran wrote in his collection of verse The Prophet, “Work is love made visible.”
Still, Debbie will be remembered for her unforgettable smile, shimmering eyes and whole-souled laughter. As many can attest, she was also quite the stubborn Dane — which served her well through other health and personal challenges. Although in youth “the boys” always claimed they came to visit her brothers, they really came to see Debbie. Indeed, Debbie was a lovely, fetching young lady. She was also darn spirited, throughout her 77 years! She danced across the border to the lilting sounds of mariachi and loved a good brandy manhattan, sans bitters and maraschino cherry. The smell of freshly baked bread filled her home every Saturday morning; cookies and bars were made and shared aplenty.
She was not so secretly in love with Tiger Woods and, though health complications kept her away from the course in recent years, her clubs were polished and ready (save her trusted 7 wood, which has been preserved for posterity). Debbie was also a card-carrying member of “Torgie’s Angels” — Russ and his trio of cross-country skiing lady pals. Throughout her life, “Mrs. T” also loved spending time with her son. Whether at The Red Mill round about enjoying sunshine and the rush of the river, swimming in the Chain o’ Lakes (near Esther Williams’ Island, of course), fishing with vigor (sometimes even catching fish), haphazardly gardening, preparing divine dinners, seriously carving pumpkins or just sitting around drinking Snapple and shooting the breeze, their togetherness was mutually cherished; a quietly shared excitement.
She not so gently persuaded Jim to study piano, giving him perhaps the most important gift of all: Music. Though their relationship was sometimes blustery, the past few years were blessed with peace (generally), grace, resolution, mutual understanding, trust, support and friendship. Debbie Thompson. Reflective. Robust. Refined. Real. You are loved and missed by so many more than you ever imagined. We all hope that you and Russ are playing a good game, looking forward to a heavenly 19th hole.
Debbie is survived by her son James E. Thompson, niece Elizabeth (Holmes) Pawlak and family, nephew David Holmes and family, brother Dan Jones and family, Alaskan family members of her brother David Jones (deceased), brother John Jones, Jr., brother-in-law Norbert Karpinski and family, sister Ruth (Jones) Laughlin and family, Fred the Cat and numerous other caring relatives and friends for whom the family gives thanks. Preceding her in death, and deeply missed by Debbie, were her husband Russell A. Thompson, her beloved sister Laurel “Lollie” (Jones) Karpinski and her parents, Paul “JP” and Myrtle (Claussen) Jones.
Please direct any questions regarding Debbie’s memorial to Ted Thompson, Funeral Director, A.J. Holly & Sons, Waupaca, WI at 715-258-4020, or email condolences to firstname.lastname@example.org. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts in Debbie’s name be made to one or both of the following worthy charitable causes: Trinity Lutheran Church Moving Forward With Christ Building Expansion Fund. Checks should be made out to Trinity Lutheran Church/Building Fund and mailed to Pastor Chuck Tews, Trinity Lutheran Church, 206 East Badger Street, Waupaca, WI 54981-1533. Phone: 715-258-7688. The Gerald C. Knoepfel Scholarship Fund for high school youth going on to study music in college. Checks should be made out to the fund or GCKSF and mailed to: Waupaca High School, c/o Dan Wolfgram – Choral Department, E2325 King Road, Waupaca, WI 54981-8270. Phone: 715-258-4131.