Family and friends held a traditional, all-night vigil Aug.17 for John "Stubby" Thompson, who died Aug. 11 in Hoonah of liver cancer. He was 68.
Members of the American Legion conducted a military memorial service the next day for the veteran, fisherman, bartender, father, and the eldest grandson of famed Chilkat blanket weaver Jennie Thlunaut. Thompson was an Eagle/Wolf of the Kaagwaantaan of Klukwan. His Tlingit name was Gunani`k.
The youngest of Thompson’s seven sons, Kevin, delivered the eulogy and recalled his father’s career as a star basketball player for the Haines Glacier Bears. He was also a guard on the Klukwan ANB Gold Medal team.
"On good days he said he could see flecks of paint on the rim," Kevin said. Sinking a basket on those days seemed as easy as "throwing a rock into the ocean." Kevin remembered his father as a fun-loving man who liked to dance and socialize. "Sometimes a trip to Klukwan would take a day and a half. Not because he was a slow driver, only that he was a fast friend."
John Wilberton Thompson Jr. was born at the Chilkoot Barracks hospital in Haines on Sept. 16, 1942 to John W. Thompson Sr. and Edith James Thompson. Kevin Thompson said that when his father was teased by his fellow soldiers for being an Indian born in an Army hospital, he would jokingly reply, "My mother was captured."
Thompson graduated from Haines High School in 1961 and joined the Army in August. He served two tours in Vietnam and stayed in the service almost a decade as an Air Force photographer and filmmaker. "He said he’d traveled around the world three times before he was thirty," Kevin said. He was discharged in 1969 and the family said he received an Air Medal for his honorable service.
Thompson’s first son, Ken Sam of Sitka, was born in 1962. In 1963, Thompson married Rosemary O’Halloran and had three sons, Patrick, John, and Craig. In 1972 he married Gale Tagg of Haines, and had three more sons, James, Levi, and Kevin.
He and Gale lived in Anchorage, Sitka, and Juneau before settling back home in Haines in about 1973. He bartended at the Pioneer for many years, was a deckhand locally and in Bristol Bay, and worked on the railroad in Skagway.
He was a crane operator for Southeast Stevedoring, and worked for a time as an iron worker. He also acted in the Disney movie, "White Fang," filmed in Haines. In 1997 he married Johanna Dybdahl of Hoonah, and divided his time between Haines and Hoonah since then. He also suffered several debilitating strokes. Johanna and his sons Kevin and Levi were at his side when he died.
Thompson’s parents preceded him in death, as did sister Joanne Van Ausdal and son James Edward Thompson. He is survived by wife Johanna Dybdahl and stepchildren Johann and Bernice Hinchman of Hoonah; sons Ken Sam of Sitka, John and Craig Fogarty of Stuart, Fla., Patrick Fogarty of Palm City, Fla., and Levi and Kevin Thompson of Haines; and by grandchildren Tommy Thompson of Juneau and Shaye Otton of Haines.
"The apples of his eye were his grandchildren," Kevin said. "When they came around you could just see the joy and pride overcome him."