by Judy Sullivan
One of my favorite people in this world was Stan Thompson. Most of you remember Stan from the columns he wrote for the "Sun-Bulletin" every week. What a unique, wonderful person, that Stan.
Stan came to Morro Rock every Wednesday morning to visit with me. Always dressed in a bright Hawaiian shirt, white slacks, and sandals, Stan would smile and wave as he parked his silver and tan convertible. He would settle in on the boulder next to my car and we would talk, work on one of my crossword puzzles together, and laugh a lot. If other people were visiting with me when he arrived, Stan would join in the conversation. But he would also pace, waiting for them to leave. Afterwards he would say, "Don't they know this is MY Judy time?" He was a funny, sweet guy and always made me smile.
Often our subject of conversation was who he was writing about at the time. And this is the thing about Stan - he was so enthusiastic about his work. He genuinely loved meeting all of the people he wrote about in his columns. Stan treasured their life stories. He admired people of all ages and interviewed high school students as well as retired folks. His enthusiasm showed in his writing. He was eager to let his readers know about the exceptional people who were their neighbors. He did so with humor, grace, and delight.
I have to share this story with you. Several times, while driving along South Bay Boulevard towards Los Osos, I would see a car exactly like Stan's. I would start to wave, only to realize, as the car neared, that the person driving was a rather large woman with a huge, blond hairdo and bright makeup. In telling Stan about my mistaken identy episodes, he responded - with a totally serious look - "That is me." He made me laugh then - and still does when I think of this.
As a follow-up, the next time I saw the woman I waved anyway. Stan would have laughed.
As travel writers and photographers, he and Vicki Leon, author of the witty "Uppity Women" book series, took many trips. They went to the Peruvian Amazon as Earthwatch volunteers and to Guatemala, where they lived with a local family while Stan studied Spanish. Spain was often used as their base while going off for visits to Egypt or Italy. A trip to India included two fascinating train journeys through the country.
In 2007, Stan went to Africa with a group led by Tom Neuhaus of Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates. After meeting up in Casablanca, they toured the cocoa-growing areas of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Staying in the villages with the people who farmed the cocoa beans seemed to have had quite an impact on him. He talked especially about the children and how terrific they were.
About a month after Stan returned from Africa, he died while on his morning jog. It was a Wednesday. I was surprised when he didn't show up for our weekly visit and went home disappointed. It was later that day when a friend called to tell me what had happened. I tear up as I write this. What a good, dear man. I will always miss him.
The bottom picture on the right is of a little wooden bead doll Stan brought to me from Africa. I keep it in the car with me to hold sometimes while working on a crossword puzzle. While it has more and wilder hair than Stan's, the doll is a nice reminder of time with him.
It is mainly in tribute to Stan that the Slo Coast Journal was conceived. He loved this community and the people in it. One of the things he shared with me was how important it was that we all have a voice. He felt that we should be reminded of how fortunate we are to live here, because we often take our place for granted. We in small communities have something to hold on to - the ability to know our neighbors and to understand how we all contribute to the lives of each other. Stan enabled that through his columns. Hopefully we at the Journal will continue, in our own way, that service to you.
I'm no Stan Thompson. I can't write like he did or capture that warmth and generosity of spirit he shared through his columns. But others will be here to continue to introduce you to your neighbors. When you read these pages, please think of our Stan and smile.
Slo Coast Journal Publisher
Stan Thompson, Our Inspiration