Birthday of a best friend, partner, and wife

Amy Thompson on a trip on Amtrak's Acela to New York City in 2001:

Birthday today for my best friend, partner, and wife. Amy Davis and I were introduced formally in 1977 in Illinois when we met with Alton Little Theater director Birdine Groshong, who was putting together a melodrama for their summer presentation that always included a “professional” actor or actress.

Ms. Davis had served as the resident heroine on the Goldenrod Showboat on the St Louis Riverfront, among her other paid acting activities after studying drama at the Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville. She was already aware of me because of a review I wrote on a play she did at the school and, also, because I had shown up at her apartment complex at SIUE as the date of someone she neither liked nor had invited.

Two strikes against me, which meant a series of rebuffs when I asked her out socially several times in rehearsals. I had been cast as the villain because of my reputation as a troublemaking columnist at the Alton Telegraph. She was also told by others, including her mother, that I was a “bad boy” when it came to behavior with the opposite sex.

After one rehearsal, however, her car wouldn’t start, so I offered her a ride home. I also suggested we stop at a local bar for drinks and some food and she agreed. We talked and found we had a lot in common. Turned out the review she had a problem with was over the headline, which I didn’t write and I had also had a problem with it. As for being with the woman with a worse reputation than mine who showed up unannounced at the party, I told her that it was a first, and last date. “Bad news,” I said of the date.

Along with some White Russian drinks at the bar, we were getting along better by the time we ran to my TR-6 in the rain and got to know each other a lot better in the car as rain cascaded down.

By the time the melodrama ran for a week at the Little Theater, she walked away with the show and we were a couple. Friends joked that the show was the first time in history that the heroine ended up with the villain in a melodrama.

The newspaper clip shows Amy as the heroine in the melodrama where we got together. Yes, that was her future husband in the lower left photo. It was the first time the villain won over the heroine in a melodrama.

I had been married but divorced a few years earlier and she was in the middle of divorcing her first husband. By the following year, we were living together and married a year after that.

Her acting became part of area theaters and she directed some new theater projects in and near Alton. When I was offered a job as press secretary for Republican Paul Findley of Illinois, she agreed to the move and we left Alton and moved to the National Capital Region, settling in Arlington. I had said the move was a temporary one to learn more about how the Capitol worked before going back to another newspaper.

Two weeks became seven years as a political operative, including gigs as chief of staff for another Congressman and Special Assistant to the Ranking Member of the House Science and Technology Committee. Amy was on the road during much of that time, directing plays and appearing in others, and working in New York on projects like the Rockefeller Center tribute to acting mentor Lee Stausberg, where she met and worked with Al Pacino and others. She also worked with me, along with a political consultant, on ads and other projects and traveled with me and helped on projects while I was Vice President for Political Programs for The National Association of Realtors for five years.

Amy on a camel ride in Israel.

In Alton, I was known as a workaholic who also partied hard and my drinking got worse during the political times. Amy had joined Al-Alon to try and find ways to get me to stop drinking and was close to ending our marriage if it continued until an intervention she helped set up with others got my attention and I took my first step with Alcoholics Anonymous on June 6, 1994, and haven’t had a drink since. On this June 6, I celebrated 28 years of sobriety.

That saved my life and our marriage and we will celebrate 43 years later this year.

Amy is one of the reasons we moved to Floyd. I had returned to journalism as a contract photojournalist and covered many hot spots, including 9/11 and other events that followed around the world, but when the call to become an embedded part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, she asked me not to go. “I have a bad feeling about this one,” she said. The man who took my place died in Iraq. I had learned long before to trust her instincts. Instead, we moved to Floyd, my home during high school.

I took a contracting job with The Floyd Press and she helped my mother in her declining health (which was why we came to Floyd) and on other projects until an accident unloading a truck injure her back. After two surgeries, her back is better.

Today, she turns 69 and has no problem admitting her age. When we decided to move to Floyd in 2004, I told her that it could be temporary if she wanted to go somewhere else after mom died. When that happened in 2012, any decision was delayed by my encounter two months later with a cow on U.S. 221 between Cave Spring and the bottom of Bent Mountain as I was heading back from Staunton on my motorcycle after shooting photos of a football playoff game for The Floyd Press.

After more than two months in a hospital and several months of extensive physical therapy, I asked: “Do you want to go anywhere else?”

“Not a chance,” she said. “This is home.”

Happy Birthday, my love. Let’s enjoy another year together, here or wherever. As for your age, 69 is divine.

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