The Española Valley lost another great advocate last week. Brian Thompson died Jan. 29 at the age of 68. He was a truly community-focused man, always ready to help others and better Española.
It’s with much trepidation that I write this column. Mr. Thompson was always Mr. Thompson, despite his asking me several times to call him Brian. That’s because he was my first high school English teacher and I’m sure I disappointed him often that freshman year.
I met Mr. Thompson when he was a new English teacher, having just moved to Española from Indiana with his wife Carol.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from University of Indianapolis in 1972.
He wasn't just teaching English classes. He was at McCurdy as part of a United Methodist Church mission. In McCurdy’s private school early days, missionaries came to the area to teach school and work for the church. They earned a pittance in salary but surely gained much spiritually and mentally by helping a community sorely lacking in teachers and struggling to educate its youth.
He not only understood the notion of community service, he lived it his entire life, regardless of his job, location or station in life.
Mr. Thompson was by all accounts a good teacher. Tolerating teenagers can’t be fun. He stayed at McCurdy for 13 years, teaching English, social studies and heading the chess team and assistant coaching in several sports.
In the first few years at McCurdy, while teaching, he earned his master’s degree in English and World History from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
I assume he left McCurdy for better pay and benefits at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He had a strong career there as a technical writer, moving up to eventually hold a chief of staff position. He retired from the Lab in 2012.
Although he went up the hill to work, Mr. Thompson lived in Española and maintained his ties with the Valley and was active in many facets of the community.
He was a longtime tutor for the Rio Arriba Adult Literacy Program.
At his service Monday his family and friends spoke of his ability to grasp an entire problem and understand it before deciding how to search for a solution. Fellow parishioner Pilgrum Hart said Mr. Thompson was an advocate for the needy and always looked for a way to help others.
His daughters Rachel and Michelle cited his quirks (singing to the cats in the morning) but more so his outlook on life and drive to better the place in which he lived. They said he was kind to others, was never judgmental and was kind to his community.
Mr. Thompson never stopped learning and “took the time to find solutions.” They said he took the time to think through a problem and chose to focus on the positive.
That was my experience with Mr. Thompson also.
When he was selected for the Planning and Land Use Commission I knew we’d hit pay dirt. The commission has been historically populated by political picks, some trying to cut their teeth in preparation for city council. Few take an interest in their post, nor put effort to learn city codes, the master plan or how it will shape the future Española.
Obviously Mr. Thompson was an exception. As his daughters said, he took the time to research issues. As a commissioner he studied requested variances and submitted plats. He wasn’t going to vote on an issue that came before the Commission without full knowledge of how all parties would be affected by his vote. That’s novel.
He wasn’t on the Commission long but his voice was one of logic, caring and solutions. Patent Brian Thompson.
His work with Valley View is also impressive. Hart said Carol and her husband were a team and a formidable one. In addition to the street ministries, he was involved in the back pack program. Probably most importantly to Valley View he was the backbone of the church’s executive committee. This group of leaders is always looking for the path forward, how to improve the church, keep it stable and encourage growth.
His daughters read a statement on Carol's behalf, which echoed everyone’s opinion of Mr. Thompson. She said he was a great father and husband of 48 years. She said his parting message would be, “Be kind to people and animals and always be ready to help in your community.”
Hart said at the end of his remarks that the church and its congregation would miss Mr. Thompson’s presence and his leadership and that his skills would be sorely missed.
“There’s a hole now,” Hart said. “I’m not sure how we’re going to fill it.”
I’m sure that thought applies to several organizations in our community, as well as to his many friends and family.