My father, William Douglas Thompson, Sr. was a man I knew only through the memories provided by my father when I was young. He survived World War II to come home, marry the woman he met at the Navy Yard in Norfolk and start his after war life at home near Tampa, Florida, only to die when I was less than a year old in a horrific industrial accident on his job at the U.S. Phosphorus Plant.
Most people called him “Tommy,” a nickname since childhood. While waiting for reassignment to a new ship in Norfolk, Eleectricians’ First Mate Thompson stopped in to the gas stamp office to see about extra ones for ride his Harley-Davidson down to Tampa to see hkis folks before heading to Guam for his new post on the U.S. Missouri, the battleship built to avenge Pearl Harbor.
The lady who ran the food stamp office was Ethel McPeak of Meadows of Dan, Virginia, who took the job to help support the war effort. She also rode and granted the extra stamps after making sure the sailor “fold a Harley.”
When he got back from the trip to Tampa, Tommy Thompson sought you Miss McPeak and they started dating. Only lager. after he returned home, did she know that he was on the Missouri. which was set to lead a planned invasion of Japan before two atomic bombs brought surrender and he stood on the eeck of his ship in Tokyo Bay to witness the surrender that ended the long war.
After marriage, they settled in his hometown of Gibsonton, Florida, known as “Gibtown: to the locals, the winder home of “carneys,” the workers of carnivals. Gibtown’s Fire Chief was a fall, lanky husband of a dwarf, known as “The Giant,” who ran a fishing camp. One of our neighbors was the Beaded Lady.
I came along about 15 months after their marriage. Yes, my mother later said, they were “counting months” and “were relieved when it took longer than nine months. She and Tommy rode their motorcycles in thrill shows and they entertain as dancers on roller skates.
Until that fateful day when Tommy was repairing a generator at the plant and a co-worker turned the power back on at the wrong time and he was electrocuted. She rold me stories about my dad and,f or trhe first gith years of my life, she said nobody could ever replace him.
Then she did replace him. After leaving Florida, we moved back to her home area of Floyd County. and she met a divorced man with three children. Sadly, I never accepted a “replacement dad” that my other had said “could never be replaced. That was my fault, not his.
After my mother died, she was cremated, at her request so her ashes could be shared with her two husbands. Some of those ashes rest at Buffamo Mountain Church cemetery, with a view of the mountain near the county line with Carroll County. The others are with my dad in Tampa.
Happy Father’s Day’s, dad. You continue to live in the vivid memories provided by your wife and my mother.