I have always admired the Thompson family – Mr. Dan and Ms. Jean – from afar. Recently, Dan turned 80 years of age and I had a chance to visit with him. As a matter of fact, I took him a chocolate pie. That pie might have fattened up most people, but not amazing Dan. The first thing I have to say is that I am always stunned by the way Dan and Jean never seem to age. One look at them and you would surmise that they have discovered the fountain of youth. Read on and I will tell you about this wonderful couple.
In December, Dan and Jean will celebrate 59 years of marriage. I asked them what their secret is since more than 50 percent of marriages now end in divorce. Ms. Jean simply said, “It is all about understanding. We have always worked hard to understand each other.” Dan replied with his customary laugh, “And sometimes when that does not work, I just have to understand that I need to go to another room.”
The Thompsons raised five children. Their children include two sons, Glenn and Thomas, and three daughters, Dora, Jeannetta and Melissa. They also have nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Their oldest son, Glenn, passed away in a tragic drowning accident. Glenn, who couldn’t swim, courageously went into the water at Pennyrile State Park to save a child. He was successful in rescuing the child but lost his own life in the process. After two weeks of searching for Glenn’s body, the search was called off. Dan, however, wouldn’t give up and stayed days after the search team quit. With a father’s love and determination, Dan himself finally found his son’s body.
Before his passing, Glenn had worked at Johnson Controls for over 20 years. Thomas works for John Conti coffee company in Louisville. Thomas also buys and sells houses. Dora is a nurse in Louisville. Jeannetta works in Hopkinsville for Life Line, and Melissa works for the Trigg County Sheriff’s Department.
Maybe, just maybe the Thompson children got their work ethic from their parents. Dan retired from TVA after working there for 34 years, and Jean retired form Elk Brand after 35 years. Oh yeah, Dan also served our country for three years in the Army.
The Thompsons are very active in their church, or I should say churches. Dan still attends the church his parents attended, which is Pleasant Hill, and Jean attends Bloomfield. They also attend together at times. Needless to say, Dan and Jean are in church a lot.
Community leader George Radford lived across the street from Dan for years. Radford had this to say. “Dan and Jean were great neighbors. Dan will help anybody do anything. He has always supported our community and supports all our Genesis Express activities as well.”
While talking with the Thompsons, the topic switched to athletics, as it often does with me. You see, the Thompson children were all good athletes and standouts in track. In other words, they were very fast. Therefore, I had to ask Dan where the children got their athletic ability. I posed the question, “Were you good athlete back in the day?” Dan said, “There weren’t many opportunities for me as far as sports teams when I was growing up. I went to a one-room school house. But I do remember that we used to race all the time and they called me “Black Lightning.” I think that was Dan’s modest way of saying he was pretty fast. Apparently Ms. Jean was a pretty good softball player, as well. They both look like they could still run a pretty god sprint.
As I have said, Dan and Jean do look younger than their years. They attribute that to being active. Dan remarked. “We dance, walk and ride bicycles.” The Thompsons youthful look, however, is not the most special thing about them. It is their outlook on life. For example, I asked Dan about changes in race relations that he has seen over the course of his 80 years, and he said that things are a lot better for his children and grandchildren now. Dan said the following, “My dad taught me to treat everybody the same and love everybody. That is the way I have tried to live my life.” Now, wouldn’t that be a good philosophy for us all to follow?
There are very few places where I feel more comfortable than in the family room in Dan and Jean’s home. As a matter of fact, they have lived in their Hayden Drive home for the last 41 years. After our visit, I left with a smile on my face after our good conservation and laughter. Dan and Jean wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the former head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.