WAITSBURG -- The community of Waitsburg lost a good friend Saturday, said several people who knew him well.
J.W. "Bill" Thompson, 81, died at Providence St. Mary Medical Center after injuring his head in a fall at home.
Thompson was a man his neighbors could depend on, according to long-time neighbor Bettie Chase. "He was just an all-round good fellow. He had his opinions on things, and he was willing to argue, but he was always ready to help wherever he was needed," she said.
Chase and Thompson were two of the four members of the Seventh Street Ranchero Club. By a quirk of circumstances, four people on the street owned the Ford pickups that were styled like sedans, and Thompson established the "club."
For several years the vehicles were regular participants in the Days of Real Sport Parade.
In 2004, Thompson was honored as grand marshal of the parade. He said he would ride a horse, and he did.
He was named Commercial Club Citizen of the Year in 1988, according to Chase.
Thompson was often seen around town on his bicycle. He was a regular at the Waitsburg Hardware and Mercantile coffee table.
It was Thompson who came up with the idea for the Lions Club to serve buffalo barbecue for the Fall Festival.
Friend and fellow Lion Jack McCaw recalled that in the first years of the event the buffalo were brought from Montana on the hoof and butchered locally.
"We'd always have liver and onions Saturday morning," McCaw said.
Thompson was also counted on to help mix up the sauce for the annual Salmon Bake, which will be held this Saturday, friend Wayne Peterson said Tuesday.
Thompson was also instrumental in establishing the chili cook-off, an event that only lasted three or four years, and the community yard sale, which has been an annual event for most of the past decade.
Besides service groups and civic callings, Thompson was a dedicated Washington State Cougars fan, and often attended football games in Pullman.
He also supported local athletic teams, and if teams made it to district or state competition, Thompson was always among those cheering them on, McCaw said.
Chase said Thompson "did a lot of visiting and drinking coffee." He would visit her two or three times a week, where he could count on getting his favorite candy bar -- a Snickers.
"He had a favorite name for all his friends," Chase said. Hers, she said with a chuckle, was "Pinhead."
Peterson said Thompson called him "Big Pete," and McCaw was "Jarrin' Jack."
Thompson came to Waitsburg in the 1960s from Palouse. He owned and operated the Waitsburg Television Cable Company.
It seems Thompson jumped into living in Waitsburg with both feet. He belonged to the Lions Club, the Commercial Club and the Masonic Lodge. He also served on the City Council, Waitsburg Ambulance board, and the board of the Waitsburg Historical Society.
Peterson recalled a newspaper article about Thompson that he had hanging on his cable office wall. It said, in part, "you had to watch out for Bill Thompson because he can think on his feet."
"That really described Bill. He could really think on his feet, Peterson said.
"Anything that needed to be done, he was always there," McCaw said.
"He was a strong community supporter in everything. He was always for Waitsburg."
Carrie Chicken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 522-5289.