DON’T LOSE THE HISTORY – Legends of the Minnesota Chapter

Jan. 10, 2019

Submitted by Tom Thompson, History Committee

Amazing fact – we lose 372 WWII Vets every day. We are losing an influential group of citizens quickly. However, their life stories can continue to inspire all of us. These veterans gave to our country not only during the war.

Thomas A. Thompson is one of those veterans. Born and raised in a rural, small town – Lakefield, MN, Tommy helped with his dad’s tailor/clothing store business and went to high school in Lakefield. December 7, 1941, changed life for many. Tom elected to serve our country at the age of 17 following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Some assistance from his father and others in the community, steered Tom towards Navy midshipmen’s school. A participant in the new Navy V-12 program, Tom attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, and finished the Officer Training program in New Jersey. He received his commission and started service in the Atlantic and was ultimately assigned to a Navy repair ship in the Philippines. Following the end of the war, Tommy returned home to finish school at the University of Minnesota, obtaining a Civil Engineering Degree.  

His first job out of school was working for the City of Minneapolis in 1949. The city was in the middle of a large watermain installation project and the City Engineer at the time – Hugo Erickson, needed assistance with laying out the joints for large welded steel pipe. Tom’s experience in the Navy repairing steel ship hulls was extremely helpful in this task. He took the job to help the city, with the intent that it would be a short term, temporary job until he decided what he really wanted to do. Tom’s time at the City of Minneapolis extended through being an Assistant Traffic Engineer, to being named City Engineer until his retirement as City Coordinator in 1978. He went on to work for Cowles Media, parent company for the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper for a time until a medical condition pushed him into permanent retirement.  

While at the City of Minneapolis, Tommy’s career influenced many notable projects from the removal of the streetcar/trolley car tracks, work on the new interstate freeway corridor, the construction of Nicollet Mall in 1968, the skyway system, construction of the new Minneapolis Orchestra Hall, Peavey Plaza, downtown redevelopment projects, City Center project, feasibility study for the installation of light rail/people movers in the city and region, and many others. Following his time at the city, he continued contributing to the region while at Cowles Media by assisting with the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome development. He notes that so many of these projects were driven by the community and influential stakeholders and their interest in promoting and developing the city as a vibrant community. In all, many of the projects and impacts to the community continue to this day.

So, look through your communities and let us know of others from the “Greatest Generation.” We all have and can continue to benefit from their lives and shared experiences.

Mr. Thompson currently lives in St. Louis Park, MN and will celebrate his 94th birthday in February.

(Note: Tom Thompson is the grandson of Mr. Thompson.)

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