I’m beginning to tire of writing these pieces, yet here we are and as the saying goes ... some things just need to be said.
On Easter Sunday, as the sun shone bright and spring seemed ever apparent I was hit with the news of the passing of yet another staple in this community.
At the risk of sounding over dramatic the words still sting in my ears: “Vickie Thompson passed.”
Stunned beyond words, I quickly sat down and texted a girlfriend whom I knew was close to the family.
How was this possible? I thought as I shot the text.
The pain of sending a text like this was multifold and I’d like to take it a bit down a rabbit hole, as I feel some readers will connect with this.
Here I was, a cancer survivor, sending a text to a girlfriend who has been deep in the cancer battle with her mom for more than half a decade, sharing sympathy about the loss of an amazing woman who too had been battling this stupid disease. It’s just not right. That’s what kept playing in my head. I’m just so sick of this disease and all that it’s done to the people and families of so many I love.
When does it end?
But today is not the day to discuss the analytics and fairness of cancer. Knowing Vickie, I’m sure she would have much preferred I wrote about that than dote on her, but here we are.
The loss of another community legend is here at our doorstep and my heart, as well as many of yours, is broken.
For the five people who did not know or have the pleasure of experiencing this amazing woman at some point in your lifetime, please stay with us, because Vickie Thompson is a woman worth writing about.
In a career with the local paper, now spanning over two decades, my relationship with this go-getter started early in my tenure.
She and her sidekick Mickey Peabody were two who quickly showed me what this community was about through the Spirit of Oakdale Thanksgiving Dinner. Through this dynamic duo, not only did I learn about the giving nature of this community, but I learned of the power of two people.
Vickie was a lady that people just couldn’t say no to and for good reason. Her persuasive smile and hometown girl humor always seemed to bring people out in masses because, “you can’t say no to Vickie T,” I would hear.
For those unfamiliar the Spirit of Oakdale dinner was started decades ago by Vickie, but not for the homeless like so many might have been led to believe. It was started so everyone would have a place to go on Thanksgiving and get a good home cooked hot meal. This was important to Vickie and through her passion for this great community it became important to a large army of community members as well. Many would give up their mornings of family time at home Thanksgiving morning to be at the community center preparing and serving a hot dinner for any and every one who cared to come.
Did I mention this was free to the community? And did I mention meals were delivered to those who were unable to attend in person?
One Thanksgiving my kids and I were on hand helping wherever needed. Finding Vickie in the foyer of the community center having a seat and visiting with a few volunteers, I asked her what else could we do. She shared in that moment that she was short on drivers that year and was worried that the people out at the reservoir may not have gotten meals.
Yes, you’re reading that correctly. She was concerned for people I actually knew nothing about until that day.
So with a trunk and back seat loaded with a couple dozen hot meals, my little helpers and I drove to where she told us and began knocking on doors of travel trailers.
Talk about rewarding and the true spirit of giving. More than not took meals and thanked us sincerely. Traveling back we stopped by the river and found a few more appreciative souls, also happy to have a warm meal.
All of this because of Vickie.
Years later, she and I sat in her sister’s home as the three Thompson girls (Valrie, Vickie and Vivian) spoke with me on being selected by Oakdale Chamber for the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. There’s no way to accurately share how special that evening was, but three hours later I left knowing I was indeed a lucky lady to be paid to sit in the company of such genuine and kind souls. All three sisters, each beautiful inside and out. More than deserving of the honor they were being named for.
Sadly, Vivian passed the following year and now Vickie.
My eyes well up just typing that.
The reason is simple; this is so much more than a loss to our great community. The Thompson sisters are legendary, Vickie just happened to be the one I knew best.
She always went out of her way to keep me in the loop, looking out for my best interest as the “local media,” always ensuring I had the scoop on anything she was involved with first.
But it was more than work with Vickie, she became a friend over the years and I truly loved her.
My eyes well up again, as I realize I’ll never again see that tie-dyed shirt wearing soul with glasses walking toward me with a hug just waiting. Gone are the days of wisecracks, straight talk and good deep belly laughs.
Man … so here’s to the lady who taught so many of us to be better. May her memory be honored and spoke of for years to come. May the stories be like an old 45 you love to hear again and again on the radio. She truly was a classic and I for one will miss her.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.