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David Thompson


1929 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
David Thompson Obituary
David Clark Thompson

David Clark Thompson, of San Francisco, was born May 2, 1929, in New York City and succumbed to the complications of pneumonia on June 22, 2017 at age 88.

He is survived by his partner-in-life for more than four decades, Jerry Anne Di Vecchio; his daughter Stephanie Mayer; her husband Scott; and grandchildren Spencer, Cooper, and Fritze Mayer to whom he was most devoted. Preceding David are his parents, Mary and William Thompson, and brother Gardner (Wheaty).

David grew up on Long Island. A neighbor played for the New York Yankees and often invited David into the dugout during games. His passion for baseball never ceased, and his personal treasures from childhood on were three team signed baseballs, one each from the NY Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the NY Giants. Names still legible include Lou Gehrig. Spring training in Scottsdale was a yearly event for a long stretch.

David attended prep school at Berkshire School in Massachusetts; all boys (then) and boarding suited him. He was the third generation of his family to graduate from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. He majored in math and was water-boy for the football team in a rare championship season.

During his naval years, 1951-1955, David served as a Lt. JG and navigator on the USS Jupiter AVS-8, an aviation supply ship during the Korean War. The ship's route took him to Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Vallejo, CA, hence to San Francisco, the city that stole his heart. Here he found the ideal life style and friends for a lifetime.

Released from military duty, David took advantage of the GI Bill, headed for Harvard Business School and focused on marketing.

While at Harvard, he met Barbara Schutt and married; divorce followed the arrival of their daughter Stephanie.

On graduation in 1957, David, Barbara, and another close friend, classmate Tom Perkins, headed West to join the world of technology.

David's career stints were with Raytheon, Lenkurt, Ampex and other companies; he was on the team that took newly developed TV instant replay equipment to the Olympics in Innsbruck for pioneer broadcasting. As CE0 for Linnear Systems/SBE in Watsonville, CA, he led the company to prominence in the late 60s to late 70s manufacturing CB radios. From the late 70's until he retired in 2001, he was CE0 of SEA, a land and marine communication equipment manufacturing firm in Seattle, commuting weekends to San Francisco.

For twelve Septembers, David and Jerry rented a beautiful old country house in Provence, where friends from round the world streamed in and out for good meals, good (and plunk) wine, and good company. Early partners in this project were his old navy buddy, Gil Ellenberger and family, and his first San Francisco friend, Warren Epstein. Their last stay in Provence was during 9/11 when the kindness of France overflowed.

David was an avid sailor from youth. Other pleasures during the years were crewing or sailing with Tom Perkins on his many boats, most memorable being the virgin cruise of the Maltese Falcon from Istanbul. Work travel was constant. Frequent trips to visit or be with friends embraced repeat destinations such as Santa Fe, all about Europe, the Caribbean, the British Isles, Mexico, and especially Australia.

David was an avid reader of history and navigation; among his collections were rare books on these subjects. He had a keen interest in art, antiques, maps, fishing, and gardening. He supported the Presidio, neighboring his home, as it evolved under the GGNRA. He closely followed national and international events and had significant opinions until, literally, his last breath.

He was intrigued by bonsai and had a petit forest of them. One of David's favorite projects this decade was the restoration and finding a secure home for a 100 plus-year-old bonsai tree that came from the Japanese Exhibit in San Francisco's 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition. With perfect provenance, it was gifted to David by his long-time artist friend Phoebe Ellsworth.

The tree is now in the museum of masterpiece bonsai at the Bonsai Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA.

Those who wish to make a contribution in David Thompson's memory, please support: Bonsai Gardens at Lake Merritt, PO Box 16176, Oakland, CA 94610-6176. Make check payable to GSBF-BGLM (Golden State Bonsai Federation, Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt). Most important: in the memo section of your check write GRO. GRO directs funds to a major project underway to improve the gardens David enthusiastically admired.

A memorial celebration for David was held on August 13 at the St. Francis Yacht Club, a few blocks down the hill from his Filbert Street residence.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Sept. 3, 2017
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