FORT LEE Music and tennis seem to have little in common. Richard B. Thompson would have begged to differ.
Mr. Thompson taught both music for four decades in the Cliffside Park schools and tennis over the years at venues such as the Fort Lee Recreation Center, the Alpine Country Club in Demarest and the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills. He even produced an instructional LP with one of the greats of the game, Arthur Ashe.
Joseph Gemignani of Washington Township was in Mr. Thompson's seventh-grade music appreciation class at Cliffside Park's School 4 in the early '60s. "I remember him explaining that oboe players had to make their own reeds, just as he had to string his own tennis rackets," Gemignani said.
Mr. Thompson, a 58-year resident of Fort Lee and a former Board of Education president, died Friday. He was 82.
The native New Yorker was a tennis star at Newtown High School in Queens and at New York University. He began his Cliffside Park music teaching career in 1951 while continuing to pursue tennis, playing as Dick Thompson.
He competed in the National Tennis Championships at Forest Hills and the National Indoor Tennis Championship at Manhattan's Seventh Regiment Armory. At the latter tourney one year, Mr. Thompson and his brother, Donald, lost a doubles match to future International Tennis Hall of Famers Pancho Gonzalez and Frank Shields. But Mr. Thompson did have a memorable ace against Gonzalez, his son Douglas said.
Mr. Thompson's work with Ashe on the 1974 instructional album, "Learn Tennis With Arthur Ashe," grew out of his years as a teaching pro at Forest Hills.
When Mr. Thompson, long certified by the United States Professional Tennis Association, wasn't teaching the sport, he was writing music. He composed more than 300 songs, including one titled "Bergen County Boogie."
He served on the Fort Lee school board from 1966 to 1972 and was involved in many other local organizations. In 2009, he received the Fort Lee Coalition of the Arts' first Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his promotion of both the arts and tennis.
"He provided a positive influence on the kids of Fort Lee and Cliffside Park," said Tom Meyers, a founder of the arts coalition and Fort Lee's director of cultural affairs. "This was a special guy, a real old-fashioned gentleman, the likes of which you don't see anymore."
Mr. Thompson retired from the Cliffside Park schools in 1990.
He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Joan; his children, Diane Stamberger of Long Branch, Beverly Salierno of Chatham Township and Douglas Thompson of Wyckoff; a brother and four grandchildren.
Services were Sunday at Frank A. Patti and Kenneth Mikatarian Funeral Home, Fort Lee.
Published in The Record on Feb. 1, 2011.