Dave and Bonnie Thompson
(The Short Version)
We met in August, 1959; introduced by Dave's sister, Skeeter. We fell in love and were married in 1962. Douglas was born in 1963. Jeff was born in 1966 and Sarah was born in 1967.
We retired from the Army in 1979 and Dave worked for the USDA Forest Service and Indian Health Service. In 1984 Dave went to work for Wang Laboratories and retired in April, 2000.
We have two wonderful grandsons, Jacob and Tanner and a brand new granddaughter, Sydney.
lived in Lost Wages, Nevada for five years and moved to Bremerton,
Washington in October, 2005.
(The Long Version)
In the summer of 1959 Dave was footloose with all the freedom that a 16 year old with a driver's license could have. Skeeter, his sister, had worked in the Connecticut tobacco farms. She and Bonnie met at camp. Skeeter conspired to have us meet and BINGO! Dave didn't have a chance. He entered the Army right out of High School and we were married April 21, 1962.
After Dave spent a year in Korea and Bonnie & Kids spent a year in Florida, we were posted to Fort Bragg, North Carolina with a brief stop at Fort Knox for a training class.
At Fort Bragg we really got caught up on the "Bleeding Edge" of the Army's Sword. Dave was Commander of HHC, 7th Transportation Battalion which supplied truck and jeep transport to XVIII Airborne Corps and 82nd Airborne Division. Bonnie learned to play bridge and all three kids were in school.
After spending two years at Fort Bragg, we were transferred to Fort Eustis, Virginia. Dave was there to attend his Army Branch Officer's Career Course. It was only a year long, so we were looking forward to the follow-on assignment before school even started.
While at Fort Bragg we purchased a motor home. We had many great camping trips, including the Smoky Mountains. When tapped for the Career Course Dave was told in no uncertain terms by his Branch Assignments Officer that we would be headed to Germany after the Career Course. So... The motor home was sold at Fort Bragg.
After the requisite Christmas trip to visit relatives, we settled down for the Career Course. For those not familiar with the Army, the Branch Career Course is the first major schooling for officers. Long term friendships and relationships develop there.
Two major events happened during 1975. South Viet Nam fell to the communists. It was especially wrenching to our class since the great majority had at least one tour there. During 1974-1977 the Army also experienced a major draw down in strength. RIF (Reduction in Force) was the Sword of Damocles that hung over every Reserve Officer's head. While I held a Regular Army Commission, I felt for my contemporaries. Of a class of 105, my Career Course lost over 30 to the RIF.
During that period the Army had a requirement that any officer attending the Career Course or Command and General Staff College must also be enrolled in higher civilian education. I had been working on the requirements for a Master's Degree for the previous three years. I enrolled at Florida Institute of Technology to complete an MS in Transportation Management. At that time FIT had a sharing agreement with the College of William and Mary so most professors and instructors came from that institution. Finishing my Master's Thesis required four months beyond the end of the 1975-76 winter semester, but in April, 1976 I had an impressive sheepskin hanging on the wall. Whoda thunk it? In 1961 all I wanted was to get the military requirement out of the way so I wouldn't be drafted!! We never dreamed the Army would become a career.
Earlier I mentioned that my Branch Assignments Officer in Washington practically guaranteed me we would be posted to Germany after the Career Course. We sold our motor home at Fort Bragg. Of course, the Army being the Army, when the folks from Army Personnel Command showed up to pass out assignments, we were on the way to Alaska. ARRRGGHH!!!
In January, 1976 we stepped off the plane in Anchorage anticipating our first trip to "REAL" snow country. What we saw was a landscape covered with snow about the color of North Carolina sand. It seemed that Mount St. Augustine, a volcano across Cook Inlet from Anchorage had blown its top the day before. An auspicious beginning to our adventure in the Great Land.
We immediately jumped into a whole new world. Studded snow tires, cross country skis and an APO address even though we were in the United States. We quickly learned that Alaskans say "snow machine" rather than "snow mobile". The Lower 48 is "Outside". A Sourdough is someone who got there the day before you and a Cheechako is someone who got there the day after you.
There were new and exciting things to do that first winter.
We learned to cross country ski...
We learned to ice skate...
We were also looking forward to that first summer in The Great Land. Fishing, camping and all sorts of outdoor activities were calling to us. We were also looking forward to those long summer days. In May we caught ourselves sitting on the front steps chatting with neighbors and kids playing in the warm sun. Time? 11:30pm! Both winter and summer in Alaska requires living by the clock and not the sun.
We learned a new term that summer; Combat Fishing. Many of the best salmon streams on earth are within a day's drive of Anchorage. That includes the Russian River on the Kenai Peninsula which has one of the most robust Sockeye runs known. You are lucky to have three feet of bank to fish from. Surprisingly, fisher folk are congenial, helpful and will step aside for the cry of "FISH ON!!"
Fishing was a friendly competition in our family. All were striving for the biggest and best fish. During all the years in Alaska, Bonnie was the absolute champ. There was nothing any of us could do to ever catch up. The King Salmon below was caught on the Kenai River at a location known as Eagle Rock. It was a hen that weighed 62 pounds!
While a normal tour at Fort Richardson is three years, in April, 1977 the Brigade G4 asked Dave if he would like an inter-theater transfer to Fort Greely, Alaska to become the Installation G4. Since the position called for a Major, we jumped at the chance. So... In July, 1977 we were transferred to Fort Greely.
Fort Greely is located about 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks at Delta Junction. While Fort Greely had a small population (less than 900) it has one of the largest land areas of any US military installation. It also is located in one of the coldest regions of North America where winter temperatures routinely reach -50F.
The day before Thanksgiving in 1977 Dave suffered a "minor" heart attack. Two weeks in the hospital at Fort Wainwright, Fairbanks and back home to Fort Greely. After a month of recovery, he was back to work.
To make a long story short, the Army sent Dave to Madigan Army Medical Center, Washington for evaluation. The testing indicated he needed bypass surgery so we went directly to Letterman Army Medical Center, San Francisco for surgery in March, 1978. The surgery was successful and we returned to Fort Greely the day before Easter, 1978.
The Army sent Dave to a Medical Evaluation Board which determined he would be medically retired. On January 1, 1979 we left Alaska headed for the "Lower 48". We stopped briefly in Las Cruces, NM, but decided we didn't like it. We moved to Augusta, GA to be near Father Ken Gilly, our pastor at Fort Greely. After spending the winter there, we ultimately moved to Florida.
After 6 months in Florida, Dave was hired by the USDA Forest Service with duty in Ketchikan, Alaska. We were thrilled! After a year away from Alaska, we realized it had become our home.
During the year "Outside" we kept our Alaska driver's licenses and license plates. Our subconscious minds knew we were going back even if we didn't admit it. When we pulled off the ferry at Ketchikan, we noticed a fellow looking intently at all the vehicles as they drove by. Later we discovered it was one of Dave's new subordinates. He didn't recognize us because the Suburban had Alaska plates and he was looking for Florida plates!
We rented an apartment and quickly settled into living and working in a small isolated town. Fishing, church and avoiding the rain were about the only excitements. The kids adjusted to the fourth school in a year, especially Doug. He would ultimately graduate from the last of five high schools he attended.
In 1984 Dave left government service and was hired by Wang Laboratories, one of the original large computer companies. He was a Senior Systems Analyst and was promoted to State Support Manager in 1989. In 1994 our life took a whole new turn. Wang offered Dave the chance to manage the field development of the new Electronic Medical Record for the Department of Defense. With our kids grown, Dave and Bonnie were off on an adventure that would take us from St. Louis, MO to San Diego, CA.
In 1999 DOD decided to take the project in-house and finish the work. (It's still not done.) Dave was offered a transfer to Billrica, MA in January, 2000, but declined and retired for good.
In April, 2000 we purchased a home in Las Vegas, NV. At the time, we weren't sure where we wanted to retire. Las Vegas seemed to be a good place to "camp" until we decided.
In June, 2000 Jeff finally decided to leave Alaska. He moved to Las Vegas and began breaking into the entertainment side of the casino business. He started with a small casino; Arizona Charlie's East as a sound technician. In 2003 he was hired by Station Casinos as Director of Technical Entertainment at Green Valley Ranch Casino. He has appeared in multple episodes of American Casino on the Travel Channel. In July, 2007 he was promoted to Corporate Director of Sound, Lighting and Video systems.
Bonnie got bored and decided to go back to work in 2000. She became the Supervisor of Player Services at Arizona Charlie's. She worked there until May, 2003.
2003 was an 'interesting' year. Dave had to have his third bypass surgery in April. Bonnie was diagnosed with breast cancer in May and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The balance of 2003 and 2004 were spent in recovery and rehabilitation mode.
By 2005 we had it with Las Vegas weather. 120 degree summer days just started weighing on us. In addition, the home owner fees in our community had gotten outrageous. When we bought in 2000, the fees were $395 per month. By the time we sold, the monthly pop was over $600.
The house went on the market in June, 2005 and we decided to move to Western Washington. After 17 years in Alaska, the climate, water and mountains were very similar to Southeast Alaska which we love. Sarah and Jacob live in Seattle. We arrived in August, 2005 and began the "Great House Hunt". From Olympia to Mount Vernon we discovered what we could afford we hated and what we liked we couldn't afford.
We found the house we wanted in Bremerton, a short ferry ride or longish drive from Seattle. We closed in October, 2005 and the house in Las Vegas sold in December, 2005. We now have moss growing on our backs and have broken out the flannel and wool.
project is now the house and yard. The yard is a scant half acre
with fruit trees, grapes and roses in the back yard. The front is
mostly grass, which we are gradually replacing with planting beds.
The previous owners lived in the house for
11 years and it appears they never cleaned, painted or fixed anything
in all that time. New paint, new carpet and all new
appliances in the kitchen have freshened up the house and are turning
it into a home. Additionally, the yard and garden have been
severely neglected. We had tree trimmers save
the fruit trees. Weeding, mowing, fertilizing and planting
was the main focus in the summer of 2006. The spring, summer and
fall of 2007 focused on bulbs, perinnials and ground covers.
To be continued...
Entire site to include images Copyright 2008, BD Thompson