Honoring the memory of Leo Thompsen

This evening I had the honor to speak at the memorial service for my uncle, Leo Thompsen. He was a kind and generous man, with an irresistible smile and an impish sense of humor. He had a genuinely positive outlook on life, with an unshakable faith in God and in the fundamental goodness of humanity.

Leo2.jpgLeo Thompsen was born in Brooklyn on June 1, 1924. He proudly served his country as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, and was one of the last remaining survivors of the Battle of the Bulge.  After the war, he attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute (more commonly known today as Virginia Tech) where he received a degree in civil engineering.   He moved to Alaska in 1953, where he lived most of his life, first in Juneau and then later in Anchorage. He survived Anchorage’s famous Good Friday earthquake of 1964, which to this day was the most powerful recorded earthquake to hit North America. He was happily married to Harriet, his wife of 41 years, who passed away in 1997. He had three children: his son David and daughters Karen and Joann. During the later part of his life, he spent considerable time in the summer months in Kodiak with his good friend and companion Ileen, and often traveled to Oregon during the cold Alaskan winters. He passed away on July 24.

Although I had to endure a lengthy journey to attend his memorial service, I’m glad I did. I had a good visit with my cousins, and was happy to share some of their memories of their dad at the memorial service. The program also included some fine violin music from Kathryn Hoffer, who also played at Leo’s 80th birthday party, which I attended in 2004. Leo received military honors at his memorial, including a touching honor guard salute.

There were well over a hundred people in attendance at his memorial. Leo made numerous friends in his life, and it was good to speak with many of them at the reception following the service.

To read more about the life of my uncle Leo, please read his online obituary. And if you knew Leo, please considering signing his online guestbook.

I’ll miss you Leo! You were truly “one of a kind,” a special person who touched the lives of many. I consider myself fortunate to have been your nephew. One couldn’t have asked for a better uncle.

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