Charles Thompson

Charles W. Thompson

1922 - 2013

Charles William Thompson, the son of William and Laura (Jensen) Thompson, was born Dec. 11, 1922, in Somers and died on Sept. 30, 2013, in Kenosha at the age of 90.

Charles grew up in Somers, Wis., on a farm that is now part of the University of Wisconsin Parkside campus. His passions were traveling, dancing, golfing and flying. He attended Wood Road School (Somers) and graduated from Mary D. Bradford High School (Kenosha) in 1941. He joined the U.S. Army after Pearl Harbor and served in the 71st Division, training with the mule pack mountain troops at Camp Carson in Colorado (his mules name was Harry James). After the 71st Division was converted to a mechanized unit, he served as a mechanic with an artillery liaison spotter aircraft unit that flew L-4s (Piper Cubs). In early 1945, the 71st Division was deployed to France and entered combat after the Battle of the Bulge. While in France, he served in Pattons 3rd Army and participated in the liberation of the Gunskirchen Concentration Camp. Upon his discharge in 1946, he entered the University of Wisconsin Madison, graduating with a degree in Horticulture in 1948. Charles returned to Kenosha to work with his father and his fathers partner at Thompson-Marken Orchard. At the farm, Charles started raising Pick-Your-Own Strawberries in the early 1950s with great success, eventually acquiring the orchard that he renamed Thompson Orchard & Strawberry Farm.

On Feb. 4, 1950, Charles married the love of his life, Marilyn (Raithel) Thompson of St. Louis, Mo. They had four children; Susan, Jeffrey, Nancy, and Gary. In the 1950s, he was a member of the Wood Road School Board and served as the schools representative to the Kenosha County School Board, where he was instrumental in developing the plans that resulted in the consolidation of Kenosha Countys rural schools. In the 1960s, he was a member of the search committee charged with identifying land for a UW campus in southeastern Wisconsin. His participation on the search committee was bittersweet. The Board of Regents selected the Thompson Orchard and Strawberry Farm along with neighboring farms for the UW Parkside campus and the property was condemned. Charles and Marilyn relocated to Bristol in 1968 and established the Thompson Strawberry Farm, which is currently operated by his son, Jeffrey, and grandson, Scott.

Charles was a founding member and past president of the North American Strawberry Growers Association (NASGA). He and Marilyn became goodwill ambassadors for American strawberry growers sharing their knowledge and expertise through trips to Asia, Central America and Europe. They also hosted numerous foreign visitors at their Bristol strawberry farm. Charles was an active member of the Somers United Church of Christ and latter, the Unitarian Universalist Church (Racine). An avid aviator since 1940, he was a member of the Experimental Aircraft Associations Chapter 117 and the Kenosha Flying Sportsmen Club. He had many flying adventures including three trips in his Cessna Skylane to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (Alaska), a Caribbean island hopping trip which included St. Thomas, and straying into Mexico once while Marilyn was navigating. He was also a member of the Moose Lodge, the Danish Brotherhood and the Kenosha County Farm Bureau.

In retirement he was able to pursue his passions first from his residence in Green Valley, Ariz., and then, with his companion, Jeanette Kyllonen, in Sun City Center, Fla.

He is preceded by his wife, Marilyn; sister, Jean Mattausch, and brother, Richard.

Charles is survived by his children; Susan Jean (Tadlock Cowan) Thompson, Alexandria, Va.; Jeffrey Charles (Marcia) Thompson, Bristol, Wis., Nancy Louise (Don) Etnyre, Oregon, Ill., and Gary William (Melanie) Thompson, Menomonee Falls, Wis.; a sister, Lucille Conde, Cleveland Heights, Ohio; five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

His life celebration with family and friends will be held on Oct. 20, 2013, between 3-7 p.m. at Bristol Oaks Country Club, 16801 75th Street, Bristol, WI.

Special appreciation is extended to Claire Bridge Resident Home, Hospice Alliance, and his many life-long friends and neighbors who extended their caring support.

Published online at on Oct. 3, 2013