Cover photo for Larry Gene Thompson's Obituary
Larry Gene Thompson Profile Photo
1941 Larry 2023

Larry Gene Thompson

June 6, 1941 — July 10, 2023

By the time Larry Gene Thompson died on Monday, July 10, 2023, he had spent 30,016 days on earth. As you might imagine, that is a lot of days. How was that time spent? Quite productively, as it turns out, and he would not have it any other way.

He was born on Tuesday, May 6, 1941, to a broom maker, Robert Leland Thompson, and Ella Marie Wilson, in Toledo, Illinois. His childhood to say the least was rough-and-tumble, and more or less consisted of spending time with different relatives strewn between two states, Illinois and Missouri, with extended stays in St. Louis thrown in. This did not reveal what was to follow, however. Having graduated high school in 1959, he decided that continuing life as it was held nothing for him, and, as he put it years later, joined the Army in 1960 because it just so happened that the first recruiter he passed by was from the Army. So the next phase of life began in Fort Carson, Colorado in 1960 as he went to basic training, and from there, he was promptly shipped off to the Republic of Korea for his first tour. Before this, his horizon was limited to the Midwest; the trip there alone would expose him to a trip across the country, to San Francisco, from where he would ship out to the Korean Peninsula, and even passing through a typhoon along the way.

After a year in Korea, Larry went back stateside, spending some time back in Missouri along the way. He began his Army life in Medical Supply but the Army determined his mathematical aptitude was wasted in warehouses and would be better put to use in the world of optics. So he attended tech school for optics in St. Louis of all places, and when he was done with this, it was off to the very center of the Army’s medical universe, that being Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. This would soon be the setting of much of life ever since. As if to underscore this fact, he met a young Edith Vasek here, and after a brief courtship – all of three months, all told – they were married on June 6, 1965, and so they would remain for the rest of Larry’s life.

Interestingly, when they were married, it was during a brief window when Larry was NOT in the Army – he was not in the Army during the summer of 1965. But he reenlisted, and for his efforts he was shipped off with his new bride to West Germany. It was here during what turned out to be his first of two tours in Germany he and his wife had his first child, this being Kristine Marie, born at the Landstuhl Army Hospital. They would spend three years in Germany before heading right back to Fort Sam Houston, drawn there as if by gravity, as it is, once again, the center of the Army’s medical universe. This stint at Fort Sam Houston would last six years total, and would be bookended by additions to the family. Towards the beginning of their time during this tour at Fort Sam, Larry and Edith’s second child, Tammy Ann, would be born, and just as the family was preparing for a move to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the third (and last) child was born, Steven Michael. Now with three children in tow, they moved off to North Carolina for nearly three years before turning around and heading back to San Antonio once again. First, Larry served another year in the Republic of Korea, before heading back to Fort Sam Houston, and after four years there, headed to Germany for a three year tour. When this was done, it was off to Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado, before once again heading to a year long tour in Korea before finishing off his Army life in Colorado and then finally settling down permanently in San Antonio, where he would remain the rest of his life, one way or another. When all was said and done, Larry spent 30 years in the Army, and nearly a third of that time overseas.

Larry did what he could to remain in the optical field, even going so far as to buy surplus optical equipment to start his own business. He even made his son’s first pair of glasses, spending a day on this in the garage, as he had the equipment and the know-how to do it. He worked in a series of jobs after this – temporary work at the Census Bureau, temporary work making the gas-mask inserts that soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines would need for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, temporary work at the IRS, before being hired to maintain government quarters on Fort Sam Houston. This he could do, for all along the way in life, Larry became something of a handyman, a jack of all trades. He could be relied on to maintain the various trucks and cars in the family over the years and well as all sorts of home repair. He could remodel entire rooms, lay down tile, hang doors – you name it, he could do it. Therefore he became a natural fit for this role. Eventually he moved on to other roles on Fort Sam Houston, notably a long stint at the Quadrangle, fulfilling different needs on behalf of the Fifth Army Headquarters based there. Eventually he moved on from here, briefly working as a security guard and finally taking on his last job as a maintenance man for the San Antonio Housing Authority.

It would be a mistake to think that Larry was only active at work. At home, he maintained his physical fitness with a home gym that he and Edith put together over a series of years. He also did a great deal of running, and participated in the commemoration of the Bataan Death March put together by the New Mexico Army National Guard at White Sands Missile Range – and he did his first one at age 60! Larry was all about challenges all his life. While Larry was at home with all things mathematical, his great weakness was words and language (in spite of having a near-calligraphic mastery of handwriting!) – but this only encouraged him to constantly work crossword puzzles, which he did almost every night for decades, resorting to the crossword puzzle published in the newspaper. He was a wizard at the pool table, but this quickly bored him – he preferred activities that challenged him. He spent the better part of the last decade of his life learning Hebrew as a way to enhance his study of the Bible – something he had been working on for the past 20 years either on his own or through Bible study groups. To go with his penchant for physical activity, he followed all sorts of different sports – football, basketball, tennis – but especially baseball, and his favorite team was the St. Louis Cardinals (the Sant Louis Cardinals, he would say), and he would remind those around him from time to time that the Cardinals had the second most World Series titles, only behind the New York Yankees – and the most in the National League! Larry also had his hobbies, notably coin collecting. He always inspected his change and was on the lookout for new and interesting coinage. When the U.S. Mint began issuing quarters commemorating the 50 states in 1999, he avidly began collecting these, and it wasn’t enough to get one – Larry had to get BOTH the ones minted in Philadelphia and Denver, and he would point out to you how to tell the difference between them. (This he would not hesitate in doing – his nature was to be gregarious and extroverted, and would be more than willing to talk to anybody, to include complete strangers, and to do so incessantly.)

Even as he slowed down due to age, he could not be stopped – Sundays would see him on the Salado Creek Trailway, or in the gym, constantly waking up at 5 am, even on weekends, and getting in a workout to start the day. It could be said you could take the soldier off the post, but not the post out of the soldier! In fact, the discovery of cancer would result, from all things, him trying to push himself to do just one more set on the weights, at a point where perhaps younger, fitter men would stop. This would set up one final battle for him, where he would not go off gently into the night, but would rather fight with everything he had. In the end, this fight seemed to summarize everything: and the summary is devotion. Devotion: to his God, his country, his wife, his family, to defeating (or at least mastering) every challenge that came his way. This resulted in a legacy that includes 30 years of service to country, a wife, three children, and two grandchildren. Not a bad way for the son of a humble broom maker to spend the 30,016 days of life left to him.

 

 

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Service Schedule

Past Services

Graveside Service

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

9:45 - 10:15 am (Central time)

Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery

1520 Harry Wurzbach Rd., San Antonio, TX 78209

Honors will be held at Shelter #5.

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