LtCol Rufus Buell "Tommy" Thompson, Jr. passed away on October 22, 2014. Tommy's military funeral took place on November 10, 2014 at the Miramar National Cemetery.
"The family that walked."
These are the tributes read by Tommy's son and daughter.
We sincerely thank all of you for being here today to honor and celebrate the long and productive life of Rufus Buell Thompson. Dad lived life to the fullest and remained active, inquisitive and optimistic right to the end. He passed away peacefully at 95 years of age on October 22.
Dad would be somewhat embarrassed to receive all of this attention, but would feel honored knowing that this service is happening on the Marine Corps' 239th birthday and the 41st wedding anniversary of his daughter, Sue, and son-in-law Mike. Additionally, I know how much it would mean to him to have the Marine Corps Honor Guard here to pay tribute to him and the fellow Marines that have passed on before him.
Dad was born to Rufus Thompson and Susan Martin in Lewistown, Montana on September 16, 1919. Growing up in a small town through the Depression instilled in him a thrifty nature mixed with values of hard work, impeccable honesty, and integrity. Upon graduating from Lewistown high school in 1937, he turned down a college scholarship and bought a one-way train ticket to Seattle where he joined the United States Marine Corps. His intention was to play the sousaphone in the Marine Corps Band. However, upon completion of Basic Training, he was directed into the infantry.
He was assigned sea duty in the Pacific during the years leading up to WWII. During the war, he had a variety of assignments, and as a young sergeant on recruiting duty in 1942 while in Cincinnati, Ohio, met our mother, Elizabeth Meeker. They were married in January 1943 and remained a committed couple until Mom's passing in 2011 after 68 years of marriage.
During WWII, Dad returned to sea duty; received a field commission into the regular Marine Corps; and as a young officer was in charge of the Marine detachment on the USS Nashville, a light cruiser active during the island campaigns in the Pacific. He survived a kamikaze attack in 1944 near the Philippines.
After the war, Dad participated in an icebreaker expedition into the Arctic to test military equipment and make an attempt to break through the Northwest Passage above Canada. He commanded the last all black company of Marines before Truman directed desegregation of the military; was in charge of security and the Marine Detachment on the island of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands and in the city of Nara, Japan; and served in Korea.
His career in the Marine Corps continued at the Development Center in Quantico, Va. and ended with his 1961 retirement as a LtCol while at USMC Headquarters in Arlington, Va. He recently commented on being amazed at his good fortune with the variety of special assignments he received. Throughout his military career Tommy made many lifelong friends.
More recently his online memoirs, photos and videos on the family web site have rekindled long lost friendships from those days in the Pacific, as well as making new connections with relatives of those friends. Some of you are here today.
A second career as an administrator at Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo lasted for 17 years. Subsequently he and Mom retired to spend the next 35 years growing avocados, harvesting fruit, and maintaining a lush garden on eight acres in Fallbrook, California.
During these years, Dad and Mom loved their time in the north San Diego county countryside and were extremely fond of several close neighbors. Dad relished his weekly games of golf at Camp Pendleton with his Marine Corps buddies. Other highlights included annual visits to family in Oregon to enjoy time with granddaughters, Kyla and Sierra, and fishing on the beautiful McKenzie River near Eugene, and playing golf at courses in the Cascades and Central Oregon. Closer to home Dad and Mom loved visits from nearby family in Laguna Beach, playing chess with his grandson, Luke, and socializing with good friends from the Fallbrook community.
Health issues led the folks to let go of their lovely country home and transition into Regents Point retirement community in Irvine. Dad thrived during his time there. He made new friends (some of you are here today) and was active with daily exercise (thank you Tim), enjoyed group gatherings, occasional outings with neighbors, visits by friends and family, and loved the genuine friendship and professionalism of the wonderful staff at Regents Point.
Tommy was a kind and special person. He was a wonderful role model to all of us; particularly to Sue, Mike, Luke, Patti, Kyla, Sierra, and me. We miss him dearly but celebrate his wonderful, long life and how much he has positively touched so many. Our memories of him will be with us throughout our lives.
He was truly a humble hero.
My Dad... What a wonderful man, and I was so lucky to have him as my father.
Dad had left a letter for Rob and me to read after his passing. In it he said, "What we have left in material things I believe is rather unimportant except if properly used it can make your life a little more comfortable and pleasurable. What we have left in your moral character, your interest in life and people is that which is important to me." That says it all.
Dad loved his family, friends, country, and his life. He always did his very best in everything he did. Whether it was taking care of his family, in his job, helping a friend, playing golf, playing bingo, he always did his very best.
He was kind and respectful. He was a gentle man. Along with that, he had great determination.
David Sears wrote a book about WWII and had interviewed many people who had served, including Dad. This is a personal note Mr. Sears wrote to Dad.
"In honor of Rufus B. 'Tommy' Thompson, beloved father and Grandfather, fine Marine Officer and proud CO of the Marine detachment aboard USS Nashville (CL-43). Ship crew and detachment served with valor and distinction in the wartime Pacific. During a withering attack by kamikaze aircraft in the Philippines, many gave their last full measure. May the lives, sacrifices and legacies of Tommy Thompson and his fine detachment of Marines never be forgotten. They served our country unfailingly in a time of great peril. They were - and remain - true heroes in the War with the Wind." David Sears