George W. Thompson Was Attorney, Farmer

George Wallace Thompson of Illinois, a lawyer, farmer, meteorologist, philosopher and planter of trees, died on Dec. 22, 2003. He was 79.


Mr. Thompson, introduced to the Vineyard by his wife, Sylvia Angevin Thompson, was the fellow you saw swimming in November at the Bend in the Road Beach, or circumnavigating the Island on a red bicycle in 100 per cent humidity on a scorching August mid-day. Mrs. Thompson, who grew up coming to Edgartown, introduced her husband to the Island, and when he discovered the bicycle trails, he was fully convinced.

Born July 13, 1924, in Galesburg, Ill., Mr. Thompson died at home on the farm where he lived and worked with his wife. He was an adventurer and great traveler but always with strong ties to the Midwest. He will be missed by his family, who remember him skating across the frozen pond on the farm, and by his many friends in the communities to which he was devoted.

Mr. Thompson served in the Air Force in World War II as a meteorologist/navigator, stationed in Baghdad and Kabul. Upon his return from the war, he was graduated from Hamilton College and began work toward a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University. After a year, the call back to Illinois came with his decision to change to the University of Illinois for a law degree. For two years he continued the Galesburg law practice of his father, the late Illinois Sen. Wallace Thompson, and then moved to the firm of Wilson and McIlvaine in Chicago, where he practiced until 1974. While he continued to work pro bono as a lawyer throughout his life, at age 50 he left the firm to return to farming, his family's heritage.

He is survived by his wife, his former wife Josephine Merwin Thompson, and a sister Catherine Ekstrom; seven children and stepchildren, Lydia Whitehead, Wallace Thompson, Sarah Rentschler, Peter Rentschler, Mary Rentschler, Phoebe Cole and Alexandra Thompson; 10 grandchildren, many nieces, nephews, and countless groves of trees.

A memorial service will be announced at a future date. Donations may be made to the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation or to the Vineyard Conservation Society.