Celebration of Life next Saturday for retired PDN chief photographer Tom Thompson, 64 (* With VIDEO *)
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Dave Logan/For Peninsula Daily News
Tom Thompson, right, receives a proclamation of appreciation in August 2007 from the Clallam County Board of Commissioners on his PDN retirement. The proclamation saluted Thompson's photo work and was presented by Steve Tharinger, then chairman of the commissioners and now a state representative.
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Tom Thompson/Peninsula Daily News (1979)
This photo of the sunken Hood Canal Bridge during a powerful storm in 1979 provided the public's first view of the disaster. Tom Thompson recalled having to maneuver along highways blocked by felled trees and other debris to take this photo, which was published by the Peninsula Daily News and transmitted worldwide by The Associated Press.
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Tom Thompson, who died last week at age 64.

Peninsula Daily News

EDITOR'S NOTE — The video below was played at Tom Thompson's retirement party in September 2007.

It shows a selection of Thompson's photos taken when he was with The Associated Press and during his 33 years with the Peninsula Daily News.

Our immense thanks to Jay Cline of the Sequim Gazette (and formerly of the PDN), who created this video.

Cline's video is titled "-30-" — a reference to a a now obsolete journalistic convention going back to the days when journalists sent their stories by telegraph. They would indicate the end of the story with "-30-"

CLICK ON THE middle of the screen below to play the video

PORT ANGELES — For more than 30 years, Tom Thompson captured the North Olympic Peninsula through a camera lens and won awards for photos ranging from a stark image of the fallen Hood Canal Bridge to an offbeat photo of a horse nibbling on its owner's neck.

The retired chief photographer of the Peninsula Daily News did it all with a smile on his face, a calming influence and a keen eye for the right moment and the perfect shot as he covered every kind of news — from parades to disasters, from fires and car accidents to City Council meetings and high school sports.

Thompson died Wednesday night at his home in Port Angeles surrounded by family members after suffering a brain aneurysm.

He was 64.

A celebration of life for Thompson will be held in the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St., from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. this coming Saturday.

He retired from the PDN in August 2007 after 33 years and began a successful second career with his own construction business and property development company, Clear Horizon LLC.

“Tom was the consummate professional and a highly respected, beloved colleague,” said John Brewer, PDN publisher and editor.

“He made us a better newspaper. He didn't need words to communicate; his camera work alone would take you to the heart of the story.

“His personnel file is filled with letters from readers complimenting the photos he took.

“Parents especially loved his photos of their children.

“He was so well-liked in the community that he was an ambassador for the newspaper,” Brewer added.

“And he carried his talents and outstanding craftsmanship into his general contracting business, making sure his customers always got a great job done for a fair price.”

This news story continues below the video screen

Tom Thompson retirement slideshow from Sequim Gazette on Vimeo.

Story now continues:

Many of his photos were transmitted by The Associated Press — the PDN is a contributor to this news service, the world's largest — and were published by other newspapers nationwide.

His photos also received awards from AP and from Sigma Delta Chi-Society of Professional Journalists.

Fellow PDN staffers marveled at his even temperament despite tense deadline situations.

“He never raised his voice,” said Executive Editor Rex Wilson.

“He had this calming way about him. He was always in control, always fully prepared when on assignment.

“He had a big-picture view of life and of his craft.

“He made everyone around him better at what they did.”

Said Keith Thorpe, who worked with Thompson and is now PDN chief photographer:

“Tom knew everyone, and he'd been just about everywhere — he was the elder statesman of photography on the Peninsula.”

Thompson was the first photographer to reach the scene when hurricane-force winds sank the west half of the Hood Canal Bridge on Feb. 13, 1979.

He recalled a white-knuckle drive from Port Angeles, driving through buffeting winds and dodging fallen trees and debris strewn across state Highway 104 in Jefferson County.

He found that the steel transfer span that once led from the land span to the rest of the floating bridge was in the canal.

The west half of the bridge was gone, and off in the distance, the east half was still afloat.

“The sun was breaking through the clouds enough to provide the light I needed for photography, but it was still an eerie feeling to be aware of the clouds overhead that had been a part of the storm that could do so much damage,” Thompson recalled in a 2009 interview.

Thompson stomped through brambles to capture the right angle and quickly left to make his 11 a.m. deadline for what was then an evening newspaper.

“After I took some more shots from the southern side of the bridge to illustrate the damaged span and the open gap where the bridge used to be, I rushed back to my car.

“I threaded my way back through the maze of debris and made it back to the office with just enough time to process my film and produce three or four quick prints, and the presses rolled shortly after.”

The photo was sent to AP and appeared in newspapers from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to The New York Times.

Thomas A. Thompson was born May 30, 1948, in Seattle.

He worked for AP in Seattle as a lab technician and part-time photographer before joining the PDN in May 1974.

He also attended Peninsula College and received an associate degree in journalism in 1998.

At his PDN retirement party in 2007, he said he felt “very blessed in my career to enjoy my craft, live in a place surrounded by beautiful geography, work with some great people, create some rewarding images and to see many changes.”

His survivors include his wife, Diane; stepmother Grace Thompson of Moses Lake; two brothers, Joe and Roger Thompson of Helena, Mont.; sons Wade and Scott of Federal Way; daughter Brooke Nelson of Port Angeles, a member of the City Council; stepchildren Lisa Lovern and Michael Cooper of Lynnwood; 10 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Last modified: December 02. 2012 2:10AM
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