Major General John Charles Thompson, U.S. Army (Retired), passed away unexpectedly Nov. 16 in Alexandria, Virginia. He was 75.
Thompson worked earnestly and tirelessly to improve the lives of all, both in his Army and civilian careers, where his passion for inspiring the best in people enabled numerous successful Army operations throughout the world and with a particular impact on the U.S. and Latin American relations. His personal life was equally remarkable as a devoted husband, father, grandfather, animal lover, and dear friend to many.
Born Dec. 23, 1943, in Louisiana, he cherished memories of his idyllic childhood in Monroe and exciting high school years in Mobile, Alabama. Thompson was a gifted student, disciplined athlete and passionate lover of live music. Driven by both his internal compass and direction of his loving family, he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1965 and was commissioned as an armor officer. His talent for leading was recognized early in his career as he served with valor in Vietnam and left that experience with a deep, personal understanding of the tragedy of war and the human want for peace. He met his future wife in Vermont, fell in love with her in Spain and through their tremendous 47-year partnership helped raise and support two resilient daughters and family that made him infinitely proud.
Thompson’s life was characterized by a passion for learning and teaching. He earned a master’s degree in foreign language and literature from Middlebury College and another in Military Art and Science from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He also completed graduate coursework at Stanford University, the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, New York University, Johns Hopkins University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Thompson served as a teacher at West Point – both unofficially, as a fun-loving cadet who led classmates by example and later officially, teaching Spanish as a professor in the foreign language department.
Notable assignments from his 35-year service in the Army include his time as Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board, Commanding General, United States Total Army Personnel Command, and Director of Operations for the U.S. Southern Command in Panama. Most recently as part of his civilian career, he served as Dean of Students at National Defense University’s Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, where he thoughtfully worked with Latin American dignitaries, soldiers and concerned civilians on issues including shared security challenges and opportunities, transitional justice, training, and education.
In retirement, he served as a substitute teacher in the Fairfax County Public Schools, frequently volunteered with election activities at all levels of government and most importantly served as a loving companion to his wife and dear mentor to his daughters. He loved to laugh, eat home-cooked meals, watch baseball and football and share reflections drawn from music and his favorite poetry compilation One Hundred and One Famous Poems. He relished his role as grandfather, planning cross-country road trips to visit family and sharing with each of them his love of music, fitness, history, ancestry, and literature.
A most sincere kindness, both personal and professional, was a hallmark of Gen. Thompson’s character. He considered it his life’s mission to help others. As noted in the West Point yearbook, and in many accounts from people whose lives he touched, John “was never too busy to be a friend.”
John is survived by his wife of 47 years, Linda Limbacher Thompson of Alexandria, Virginia; daughters Heather (David) Thompson Votava of Aptos, California and Army Major Johanna (Brian) Thompson Wynne of Austin, Texas; and grandchildren Emma Beatrice Votava (10), John Charles Wynne (5) and Anneke Louise Votava (5).
A memorial service for Major General John C. Thompson, USA Retired, will be held at the Fort Myer Memorial Chapel, 101 McNair Road, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia on Wednesday, 4 Dec 19 at 0930 hours with interment at West Point in the spring.
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