In Loving Memory of James Wesley Thompson: 1932-2021

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James “Jim” Wesley Thompson was born July 18, 1932 in Spearfish, South Dakota, to Stewart and Mildred Irene (Lockhard) Thompson. He passed away on Aug. 5, 2021 in Centralia, Washington, just a few days past his 89th birthday. As a youngster, his family moved to the Yakima Valley where he attended Naches High School, graduating in 1949. Upon graduating, Jim entered Yakima Valley Community College. In January of 1951, Jim enlisted in the United States Navy and was stationed in Pensacola Florida to train as a Navy pilot. He was later stationed at The Presidio in the San Francisco Bay area where he met Gail Alzene Boquest-Dorris. Jim and Gail were married the day after Christmas in 1951. 

Following his honorable discharge from the Navy, Jim went to work for the Berkeley Police Department as a patrol officer. His law enforcement career was not without peril. During a vehicle pursuit of some robbery suspects, the suspects crashed their car. Swerving to avoid the collision, Jim also crashed, rolling his car several times before landing upside down in a deep irrigation canal. In spite of having a broken pelvis, Jim used his pistol to pull himself out of the canal where he stood guard over the suspects until backup arrived. At the time, officers used their own personal cars that were outfitted with lights, siren and a radio. News of the crash and arrest made headlines in the bay area and the citizens came forward to help raise money to replace the destroyed family car.

A few years later, he went on to work at the newly formed city of Fremont, California, and became one of the original 25 police officers in their department. Jim was promoted to the rank of sergeant while at Fremont. In the early 1960s Jim and Gail moved to Crow, Oregon, where Jim worked as a deputy sheriff for the Lane County Sheriff’s Office. After a few years with the sheriff’s office, Jim began a career with State Farm Insurance, starting out as an auto claims adjuster. By the mid 1970s, Jim was promoted to superintendent of auto claims for the five northwest states which entailed a move to the regional office in Salem, Oregon. Jim eventually transferred to the fire and casualty section and moved the family to Gladstone and eventually back to the Yakima Valley where he specialized in fire and casualty claims. He was on State Farm’s national disaster response team and deployed to areas hard struck by natural disasters. 

In 1989, he and Gail (as a hired typist for State Farm) hooked up their fifth wheel trailer and traveled to the San Francisco Bay area to work on processing claims due to the Loma Prieta earthquake. Jim retired from State Farm a few years after that, but was frequently called out of retirement when his skills were needed. 

Jim and Gail loved camping and would take their six children on trips to Yellowstone, the beach, and the mountains, and only on occasion would they leave a child or two behind at the campground. 

Jim enjoyed fishing and he was a master craftsman when it came to building fine furniture or other wood projects. Jim was always searching for a woodworking bargain for his projects, convincing the contractor building an interstate overpass in Yakima to let him have the massive oak support beams when they were finished. The beams were lovingly turned into china cabinets, tables or another beautifully crafted project for family members. 

Jim and Gail have six children. Daughter Jane Nedrow and her husband Scott; daughter Janet Turnidge and her husband Bruce; son David and his wife Annette; son Jim and his wife Candy; son Glen and his wife Jill; and son Stewart. 

Jim’s wife Gail passed away in September of 1996 after 44 years of marriage. 

While living in West Richland, Jim met a wonderful woman, Vivian “Coy” Howland and on Oct. 23, 1999, they were married. Jim and Coy moved to Onalaska, Washington, where they bought a home that had the exact same floor plan as the home in West Richland. Together they enjoyed each other’s company with many projects around the home. 

Jim and Coy enjoyed traveling throughout the western United States in their RV. They would frequently snowbird in the winter time with trips to Arizona and the desert southwest. 

Jim was always active in his community, serving on the board of the Yakima County Crime Stoppers Program. Both he and Coy worked for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office as citizen volunteers. Jim also worked as a volunteer for the Veteran’s Memorial Museum in Chehalis, Washington. 

Jim was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Gail, grandson Jesse Turnidge, and younger brothers Stewart N. Thompson and Robert A. Thompson. 

Jim is survived by his wife Coy. In addition to his six children, he is also survived by his grandchildren Luke and Adam Nedrow (sons of Jane and Scott Nedrow), Joshua and Logan Turnidge (sons of Janet and Bruce Turnidge), Carol (Rollinger) Thompson and Grant Thompson (daughter and son of David and Annette Thompson), Stefanie (Platt) Thompson and Jennifer Thompson (daughters of Jim and Candy Thompson), Justin Thompson and Michelle (McDaniel) Thompson (son and daughter of Glen and Jill Thompson), and Tiffany Thompson and Brittany (Hoover) Thompson (daughters of Stewart). Jim is also survived by numerous great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. 

A memorial will be announced at a later time.

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