One would be hard pressed to recall a time when the Thompson Sisters weren’t giving back to the community of Oakdale. To hear the trio: Vivian, Valrie and Vickie speak of their Oakdale upbringing it quickly becomes apparent, they were born and raised to serve.
Perhaps it’s this fact, which leaves little surprise that the three sisters have been chosen as the most recent recipients of the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award. The sisters will receive the award during the Annual Awards Night to be hosted Friday, Jan. 18 at the Gene Bianchi Community Center. The night will also include recognition in a number of other categories: Junior Achievement, Large Business and Community Service nominees can be found in this week’s issue, Pages 6 and 7. Next week, look for Small Business and Citizen of the Year nominees.
“I was totally shocked,” Vickie, the youngest of the three Thompson sisters said upon hearing the news of the ‘Lifetime’ honor.
Elaborating on the topic from their rural Oakdale family homestead, the sisters shared stories of their parents, Bill and Joan Thompson.
“We were taught at a very young age, you support Oakdale,” eldest sister Vivian said.
According to Vivian, clothing was the only exception.
“We were fat children and Oakdale did not have clothes to fit our fat bodies,” she stated frankly, as laughter erupted among the three.
Clothing was made by their mother or purchased on an annual trip to San Francisco.
“And we were poor people,” Vickie noted of their city shopping tour. “We learned at a young age that hard work was just a part of your life.”
They learned this through the work ethic of their parents as dad tended to their 100 acres and Jersey dairy cows. Mom also worked the land, as well as held down a career in banking.
“Mom was the driving force for hard work and work ethic and our dad was the driving force of enjoying the process,” Valrie said of their parents.
The daughters also described their mother as “civic” minded, maintaining involvement in service clubs, as well as the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce and business groups.
Their father held a place in his heart for young men in need of guidance. The family saw a total of 22 boys come through their ranch via foster care.
“He thought that being on a ranch and hard work could help troubled boys straighten themselves out,” Valrie said.
The sisters shared it was their mother’s dream for each of them to also find careers in the banking industry. Each, however, found their own way to serve in careers which have impacted the lives of many.
Vivian’s calling came by way of nursing, starting early on as a Candy Striper at Oak Valley Hospital District. She spent 37 years of her professional career with OVHD, leaving her mark in a big way. Her final position with OVHD was Manager of Emergency Services.
While there were many programs and employee activities spearheaded by Vivian, it’s the Emergency Room expansion project from the early 1990s which she recounts as most notable of the Oakdale community and its ability to rally when need arises.
According to the former OVHD staffer a goal which was set at $100,000 for the improvements, grew to one million dollars over the course of three years. A fact Vivian attributes to a community of hardworking, civic minded members.
As Vivian made her way in the world of caring for the ill, Valrie found her calling with youth. A San Francisco State graduate, the middle sister spent a few years teaching before finding her calling as the Program Manager for Center for Human Services - Hutton House. A career which has spanned over 30 years and continues to touch those in need of help today.
“Just seeing that you’re able to impact people in a positive way is such a wonderful gift,” Valrie said of her career, as well as the sisters’ community work.
“It was pretty marginal for me, that I’d even live past my 20s,” Vickie said of her post high school years. However, not only did she get through her 20s, she continued to grow and flourish.
The most notable of the sisters’ community contributions would be the well-known Spirit of Oakdale Community Thanksgiving Dinner. An event spearheaded by youngest sister Vickie in 1992. An event which honored the home cooked meal their mother would cook each and every year before her passing. The free community event quickly grew from serving barely 100 in its first year, to as many as 1,000 in its later years.
The sisters laugh, as they recall all the community events they’ve participated in, attended and founded in support of one another and the community. They noted they work as a trio and the community expects it.
“Vickie always says we’re done,” Valrie laughed, “we’re done … we’re done and it never ends.”
“She says we’re done, but look, when you’ve been brought up the way we have, you’re never done,” Vivian added. “Receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award is icing on the cake.”
“It’s sad for me that she (mom) doesn’t get to see that I made it out of the ditches and I’m a decent person,” Vickie admitted.
“I think that my parents are looking down from Heaven and are extremely proud of the women all three of us have become,” Vivian stated in an emotion-filled voice.
And while the recognition is something the trio feels honored and a bit befuddled by, they also struggle with the notoriety just a bit.
“I don’t believe that,” Vivian said of hearing the word “deserving” when friends and family learned of their honor, “because that’s just who we are.
“We’ve been like this all of our lives,” she continued. “To be recognized by those who love us; that’s what means the most.”
The trio shared they’ve attended past events, honoring community members whom they feel honored to not only have served with, but call family and friends. To now be acknowledged in the same esteemed company, is something special.
“We do a lot of things that are special and beneficial to other people,” Valrie said, “but there’s a payoff for us in it too. Every time you help someone else you feel better about yourself.”
“We love Oakdale. This is our home,” eldest sister Vivian concluded. “This means more to us than anything else.”
For information about the 73rd Annual Awards Dinner, contact the Chamber of Commerce at 2090-847-2244. Tickets are $40 pre-sale and $50 at the door.