M. Diefenderfer Thompson
Mildred Diefenderfer Ladner Thompson, one of the first women reporters
for the Wall Street Journal, died of cancer in Sarasota, FL on June 25, 2013, the day following her 95th birthday. Born in Allentown, PA, Mrs. Thompson was the only child of Orlando and Mary Diefenderfer. Her father was the founder of Orlando Diefenderfer Electric. Founded in 1920 the firm continues to be the largest electrical contractor in the region. A graduate of Moravian College, she earned a masters degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and was a reporter for the Allentown Call-Chronicle before joining the Associated Presss Philadelphia bureau in 1943 to cover the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 1945 she went to the Wall Street Journals Washington bureau to cover transportation, a beat that included witnessing the initial- and only- flight of Howard Hughess wooden Spruce Goose in November 1947. She also covered the White House during the Truman administration. Mrs. Thompson published in the Journal under the byline M. M. Diefenderfer, as the newspaper did not want to advertise that it employed women reporters. In 1950 she married John Ladner, an Oklahoma state district judge, and moved to Tulsa. While raising their three children, she freelanced for magazines and was a correspondent for the National Observer. She became book page editor and columnist for the Tulsa Sunday World in 1977. Her work as a volunteer at Tulsas Gilcrease Museum led to commissions to write two biographies of American Old West artists, both published by the University of Oklahoma Press: O. C. Seltzer, Painter of the Old West and William de la Montagne Cary, Artist on the Missouri River. Widowed in 1983, she married Dr. T. K. Thompson, a UCC (Congregational) minister, in 1985. They moved to Sarasota in 1995 and Dr. Thompson, former stewardship director for the National Council of Churches, died the next year. Mrs. Thompson was a member of Pine Shores Presbyterian Church and the All-Media Retired Executives Round Table in Florida. Earlier she was active in the Womens National Press Club and Women in Communications and belonged to the Aviation Writers Association and the Book Critics Circle. In Tulsa, she served on the boards of Town Hall and the Little Theatre and was a deaconess at First Presbyterian Church. She was the first woman to receive Moravian Colleges Comenius Alumni Award for outstanding professional achievement. Survivors:
Survivors include daughters, Mary Pat Robertson of Princeton, NJ and Helen Ladner of Colorado Springs; a son, Edward Ladner of Tulsa; one grandchild, Miranda Robertson of New York; and three stepdaughters, Judy Planchon and Cynthia Thompson, both of Boston, and Rosemary Glenn, Albuquerque.