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Berkshire Profile: Gary and Kathy ThompsonBy Susan Bush
12:00AM / Saturday, June 03, 2006
Welcome to Berkshire Profile, an iberkshires weekly feature appearing on Sunday. Each week, iberkshires will highlight a Berkshires resident or entity making a contribution to the Berkshires way of life.
Williamstown - They met and married long before the days of Internet matchmaking. Town police department Dispatcher Gary Thompson and Kathy Thompson, employed as a town Department of Inspection Services clerk, relied on their own instincts and emotions and built a marriage that will celebrate its' 24th year in August.
Both claim a share of the success.
"In the over 30 years of my [dispatcher] career, I've made a number of decisions," Gary Thompson said during a recent interview. "The best decision I've ever made is asking [Kathy] to marry me. That's the way it is."
And at a subsequent interview, Kathy Thompson explained her role in the marriage beginnings.
"My best decision was saying 'yes,'" she acknowledged.
A Sprague Electric Co. Love Story
Oh, had only it all been that simple. Gary Thompson's first two lunch invitations extended to Kathy were declined.
The two worked at the former Sprague Electric Co., and both had management posts. Gary's job was considered an "upper management" position while Kathy said that her job was considered "lower-level" management.
"We met at the Sprague cafeteria on Marshall Street," Gary Thompson said. "I was a single, eligible fella and after I saw Kathy, I asked her to lunch. She said 'no.' I asked her again a few days later and she said 'no.' I said to myself, 'that's two nos.' "
"Gary was an executive, he was high management and I was lower management," Kathy Thompson said. "I was intimidated at first by some of the people he had lunch with. But Gary had a very, very outgoing personality that I liked and he was very persistent."
Persistence -or was it that "outgoing personality?"- paid off, and Gary Thompson said that the third time he asked Kathy to lunch, the proverbial charm kicked in and she accepted the invitation. The couple shared a lunch table at the cafeteria and have been sharing a life ever since.
Kathy did have to let down a few other suitors.
"I had been seeing a few people - I'd made several contacts in the business world- but Gary was the local boy," she said. "It all worked out. I went on to a higher management level and I married Gary."
Born In The Berkshires
Both boast Northern Berkshire roots. Gary lived in North Adams and from 1961 to 1965, was a Mount Greylock Regional High School tuition student. He was a member of the first four-year class to graduate from what was then a new school building.
"They didn't have school choice back then," he said. "I went there because at the time, physically, I could only navigate a one-story school."
During that education era, schools did not install elevators and Drury High School [now the site of the Silvio O. Conte Middle School] held classes on three levels.
He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in philosophy in1969, and headed off to Boulder, Colorado to attend graduate school at the University of Colorado.
Kathy Esposito began school at the Greylock Elementary School, and enrolled at the former St. Joseph's parochial school at the seventh-grade level. She graduated from St. Joseph's High School in 1966.
She attended Berkshire Community College for one semester and then went to work at the former Lev's Hardware store.
"I worked there for about a year," she said. "I learned a lot there from a woman named Ruth Philips. She had a great accounting background. I had a lot of fun there."
She left the store and joined the Sprague workforce in 1968. She remained in the International Sales department throughout her Sprague tenure and also enrolled in classes at what was then called North Adams State College.
Gary Thompson returned to the area in 1971 and began employment as a graduate school teaching assistant and as a part-time police dispatcher. He subsequently left the teaching assistant post in favor of Sprague employment, and when the company left the city during the mid-1980s, Gary decided against relocating with the company.
Choices And Decisions
Daughter Lindsay had been born in 1985, and Kathy was at home with Lindsay and was also becoming active within the community. And dispatching seemed to fit well with his skills and abilities, he said. He became a full-time police dispatcher for Williamstown sometime in 1986.
"My skill set happened to be an excellent match with the skills and abilities on the part of a dispatcher," he said. "I have strong communication skills and an ability to multi-task. You have to be able to prioritize. You have to be able to do eight things at once many times. Beyond that, you have to enjoy, or at least be well able, to work under pressure. You are the first point of contact with the public and they look to you for guidance and direction no matter what the issue."
Law enforcement dispatchers are bound by the credo "protect and serve," he noted.
"So if you have a perspective that allows you to want to protect and serve, [dispatching] is an excellent marriage."
Kathy Thompson was delighted to forgo the workplace for motherhood, she said.
"My dream was to be a mom," she said. "In 1985, when Lindsay was born, it was the moment, the highlight, of my life."
As Lindsay shifted from infant to toddler and approached nursery-school age, Kathy Thompson initiated a public library-based program for new mothers. She was active as a volunteer at the nursery school Lindsay attended.
When Lindsay enrolled in public school, Kathy Thompson sought employment within the school so that she could work a schedule that was compatible with her daughter. She focused on specific seminars and found employment working as a paraprofessional and a teaching assistant who worked directly with children with special needs.
"It could be challenging but it could also be really fun," she said. "The kids appreciated the one on one and classmates [of a student] were always very helpful. It was always great to see that."
Couple scheduling wasn't always so easy; Gary Thompson's job comes complete with weekend and holiday hours and that left Kathy, Lindsay, and Kathy's mom, who shared the family home, to keep the home holiday fires burning.
"And many's the holiday it was Lindsay, my mom, and me," Kathy said, but added that "that was the job."
Gary Thompson was particularly accepting of his mother-in-law, she emphasized.
"He was just wonderful with her."
She's been at her current job for about six years. Every day is a learning experience, she said.
"We serve so many areas and it's all interesting," she said. "You never know what the question is going to be when you pick up the phone. All the people I work with are great people. I've never not liked a job, but this is my favorite."
Kathy and Gary share numerous outside interests; Kathy is involved in the town's TRIAD program, which is a reassurance program focused on the well-being of elderly residents, and Gary is a Mason. He is proud of his mason membership, Gary said.
"The world of masons is a fraternal brotherhood that serves its' membership, its' communities and its' chosen charities," he said.
Kathy Thompson visits several people who are confined to long-term care centers regularly, and is also an active volunteer at the Community Bible Church. She is a vote counter for town elections and was appointed as a vote counter for the fire district as well. She launched and ran the Khayden Fund, and still finds time to meet friend Deb Ackley twice a week for Scrabble games.
The family fold isn't comprised solely of humans. A Pekinese/Pomeranian mix dog named "Bailey" joined the household about two years ago, about one year after another family pet, "Keisha," was put to sleep because of failing health.
"Bailey" was found abandoned on Spring Street, Kathy Thompson said.
"He came to us with worms, and fleas, and suffering from malnutrition," she said. "He's thriving now. Bailey is a Thompson joy; he's personable, he loves kids, and everyone loves him."
Gary, Kathy, and Lindsay Thompson and Lindsay's boyfriend are united on another front as well- they are devoted Red Sox baseball team fans.
Gary and Kathy don't share everything, Gary said, and explained that each job includes an aspect of confidentiality.
"There are elements of professionalism that we must acknowledge and respect," Gary Thompson said. "There are all kinds of things that we don't discuss because that's the way it has to be."
They frequently entertain friends at their Cobble View Road home, and are unlikely to become part-time residents, Gary Thompson said.
Retirement isn't in his plans, nor is relocating to a new area, he stressed.
"As long as my mind remains sharp and I continue to enjoy the work, I will continue to be on the job," he said.
"For Me, Home Is Home"
During the early years of their marriage, the couple traveled together and during his junior year of college, Gary studied abroad at the Schiller College in West Germany. While employed at Sprague, he traveled as part of his job.
"I've been a lot of places," Gary said. "I was born and brought up in the Northern Berkshires. This is home and for me, home is home. I can't explain it any better than that."
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-823-9367.