Willard J. Thompson, 90, longtime resident of Grangeville and Idaho County, Idaho, passed away at Grangeville on May 8, 2016.
Willard was born to John and Mary Rodgers Thompson in Klamath Falls, Ore., on April 29, 1926. He was one of 10 children born to John and Mary. John was from the White Bird, Idaho, area on the Salmon River, and the family moved back to White Bird when Willard was very young.
Willard attended schools at White Bird and Grangeville. He joined the Navy on May 25, 1944, where he served aboard the USS Admiral R. E. Coontz in the Pacific in WWII. He said the Coontz was a new ship commissioned for service during the war. He was dumbfounded that at the end of the war the ship sailed to New York where the crew was told it was to be scuttled and destroyed. Willard received an honorable discharge from the Navy as a Seaman 2nd Class on May 21, 1946, when the ship arrived in New York. Upon his discharge he made it back home in just four days by hitchhiking all the way. He would remember that in those days people traveling by car would stop to give a hitchhiking serviceman a ride as far as they could. They were then dropped off to be picked up by another traveler grateful for the men’s service to their country. One of Willard’s treasured belongings was a Quilt of Valor for World War II Veterans he was presented with in 2012.
Willard and Rose Cash were married in Craigmont, Idaho, on April 12, 1952. They were a loving, (and fun-loving) couple who enjoyed their time together, and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2002. They have two sons, Blake Scott and Donald Vance, who they shared their love and support with. Their sons remember with pride and appreciation the respect their parents showed to one another, and the love they all shared as a family.
Willard was a hard and conscientious worker, whose passion was driving 18-wheeler trucks. He spent many years driving for Arlie Haener of Grangeville, and worked for other employers as well. He owned and operated his own logging truck for several years and also owned Willard Thompson Logging Company for a period of years in the late 1970s and 1980s. Although "retired," he continued to drive truck for others when asked, even when he was in his 80s.
Willard is survived by his sons and daughters-in-law, Blake and Joni of Orofino, Idaho, Don and Debra of Grangeville; grandsons, Jeremy, John, Tucker and Brian; seven great-granddaughters; a brother, Joe Thompson, of Grangeville; and a sister, Doris Bronkhorst of Sunnyside, Wash.; as well as many nieces and nephews from both his and Rose’s sides of the family.
Willard will be greatly missed at future family reunions, holidays and special events. He loved family get-togethers very much, and would often say he believed a person should attend as many family gatherings as possible and be with family as much as they could, stating nothing was more important than family.
Willard was predeceased by his wife, Rose, in October 2002; his mother and father Mary and John Thompson, sisters Edith Taylor, Irma Zumwalt, Betty Neilsen, and Alice Cramer, and brothers Harold, Cecil, and Floyd (Tommy) Thompson.
At his request, there will be no funeral service for Willard. He has been cremated and his ashes will be buried next to his wife, Rose, at the Mount Idaho Cemetery. His sons and daughters-in-law plan to have a gathering for his family and friends to meet in remembrance to him, and the pleasure it gave him to see those he cared for share time together. They hope it can be arranged for sometime in June to coincide with a trip planned by his sister. A notice will be put in the Idaho County Free Press advising of the date, time and place. Arrangements are under the direction of Blackmer Funeral Home
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