- About Us
Our beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend, Jeanne H. Thompson, 86, died in her sleep April 4, 2018, from effects that come with advanced age. For most of the last 3 years, Mom has been living with and lovingly cared for by Sherri and Robert Packer, the eldest daughter and her husband. If you want proof that angels walk among us, you need look no further than Sherri and Bob, shining examples of selfless devotion, in caring for our mother these past few years.
Jeanne was born December 12, 1931, at the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, the middle of three daughters. Her father, Clifford Charles Harrison was a veteran of WWI, US Army Infantry, American Expeditionary Force. He served in France, at the western front, where he was wounded in action. After the war most of his career was as a pipe fitter at the Garfield Smelter. Her mother, Maud Elizabeth Thomas was from a fairly prominent family (Salt Lake’s R. K. Thomas Dry Goods Co.). Both of her paternal grandparents were born and spent their childhood years in England. They brought and continued what they could of their ways when they came to America. And so Maud was raised in a manner not all that distant from a proper British upbringing of the day. The lives of the children in the movie Mary Poppins give the flavor, except that the governess for the Thomases had limited magical abilities. They were as unlikely a pairing as was the later marriage of our Mom and Dad.
While our dad was growing up “free range” in rural Utah, Jeanne spent her childhood as a city girl. Her parents felt no need for the family to own a car, and so Mom would walk everywhere, including long recreational walks with her dad and younger sister. Mom was stricken with appendicitis at age 6. The state of medicine at the time was such that her appendix ruptured, and Mom went septic. She spent a year in bed, with a variety of tubes inserted and draining infection from her body. It cost her the entire school year, but she defied the odds, and eventually returned to full health.
During her childhood years, the Harrisons were not always active in church. But Mom seems to have been born with faith, a faith which sustained her all her days. At age 8 she walked alone, from the family home in the lower avenues, to the tabernacle on Temple Square, where she was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After the service, she walked home, alone again.
Jeanne discovered a love of music at a very young age. And like her faith, music would anchor her life. From the time she was just big enough, she would turn on the radio and sing along. Her love of music blossomed into a beautiful singing voice. Jeanne sang and studied during her teenage years as a member of the Intermountain Choir under the tutelage of Lucy H. Baugh. Mom was elected and for a time served as the choir’s “wardrobe supervisor,” which meant among other things caring for and coordinating the hats, floor-length dresses and elbow-length white gloves that the women of the choir wore as they performed.
An article in the Music section of the Salt Lake Tribune (February 6, 1949) reported that “each [choir] member studies not only proper vocal methods, but also professional directing through actual class participation and instruction. Points stressed are development of the individual voice in singing and speaking; correct posture and voice placement; use of phonetics; principles of tuning for greater vitality and pure tone and the principle of balance of voices within the choir.” They performed in numerous church and civic programs and in formal concerts in the Salt Lake area. As part of her studies Mom took a trip with Mrs. Baugh and the others in the choir, during which they performed in several cities along the way, before arriving at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. There they sang for and were taught by Dr. John Finley Williamson, considered to be among the foremost choir director/musicians of the day.
Jeanne was in the Pep Club at West High School. Through friends of her younger sister, she was introduced to David Thompson, who had played some football, and whose obsession with auto mechanics already had him rebuilding a ’32 Ford. They dated for about a year, before deciding to elope. They drove to Preston, Idaho, where they were married by the local Mormon bishop. The details we have of their eloping are sparse, but one thing is certain: this humble beginning developed into an eternal companionship. The particulars are far less important than that they lived and loved together for 65 years, on their way to forever.
As a young mother Jeanne returned to her love of singing by becoming a member of the Schubert Singers, a ladies choral group in Salt Lake City which sang at a variety of venues, and which is still in existence today. Still later, Mom, singing second soprano, teamed up with Donna Walker (soprano) and Shawnie Gregory (alto) and together they produced a musical harmony and blend of rare quality. They were invited and made heavenly music together for so many years, in uncounted wards and stakes in the area.
About the mid-1960s the local bishopric felt that choir singing was just the thing that the youth (ages 12 – 18) of the ward needed. Who can argue with that? Jeanne accepted the call and the challenge. She spent hours on the phone every month, inviting all of the youth—even one or two of the young men who were frankly scary to a 13-year-old son, who was still singing soprano—to come and sing in the youth choir. And many did come, and they sang. The choir rehearsed every week for an hour before Mutual and provided a special number at least monthly in sacrament meeting. Off and on Jeanne directed the Highland View Ward youth choir for nearly 20 years. All her children were choir members at the indicated ages and sang under her direction. Mom said that of all the music she had made in her life, her work with the youth choir was what she treasured most.
We have photographic proof that Mom, Dad and Sherri suffered the heat and the cockroaches in the delightfully named town of Muleshoe, Texas, while Dad served in the Air National Guard during the Korean War. We witnessed her terror when she “volunteered” to fly in the small planes he piloted, to a variety of locations. She gamely participated in boating and water skiing activities, as a “coach,” from the shore. She rafted the Colorado River and scaled to the top of Rainbow Bridge (at a time when it was permitted). Mom spent hours and hours and thousands of miles behind Dad on Yamaha Venture touring motorcycles. And together they stayed for weeks on end in their fifth-wheel trailer, in Yuma, Arizona, to escape from the cold and snow of winter in Salt Lake City. Simply put: Mom thought she belonged at Dad’s side, to take care of him. That was her guiding principle, and she pursued it with diligence and love. They brought seven children into the world, and were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple June 10, 1963.
Many of the adventures that Mom and Dad had together have been described elsewhere on this web site (http://www.holbrookmortuary.com/notices/David-Thompson).
Mom loved people easily and completely, with the kind of love that babies and children sense, and cling to. And it wasn’t just children. There were teenagers in wide variety, friends of the children in the family, who called her “Mom” and who loved her and respected her. In fact, there were many young men and young women both, who came to visit and to laugh with Mom, and to seek her counsel and love, even when the children were not around. Over the years there were several young people who took up full-time residence in the Thompsons’ basement (and refrigerator), because they felt safe and cared for.
Mom cherished the lifelong relationships she had with her sisters Shirley (Burdett) and Midge (Oviatt), and she felt a special connection to their children, her nieces and nephews. For as long as she was able, she maintained an annual Christmas gathering of the extended Harrison side of the family. The Thompson side of the family gathered at other times and places, and her in-laws and nieces and nephews on that side of the family felt her love and acceptance just as strongly.
Jeanne (with Dave) served two extended summer season missions for the LDS Church in the Kirtland, Ohio area, sharing church history with visitors. Mom and Dad served together in the Salt Lake LDS Temple for many years, arising Fridays at 3AM to be ready to start the day’s labor of love inside the temple at 6AM. It was Mom’s particular joy to help (nervous) brides, as they dressed and prepared to make their wedding vows and covenants.
The last few years of life for Jeanne were set apart from the rest. Mom suffered age-related dementia. Slowly her memories drained away, and her confusion increased. She came to a stage where, except for the rare moment or two, her words were mostly gibberish, and sentences had no meaning. She would often latch onto a few words and repeat them endlessly. She lost memories of names and faces (including Dad, who pre-deceased her), and she could not care for herself.
Such a course in life can be and was a time of great sadness. We watched helplessly while just about all that was our mother slipped away, and we have grieved over that loss for a long time. And yet, except at the very end, Mom’s personality would occasionally shine through. She would tease and laugh. Her reactions and facial expressions during conversations seemed appropriate, and happy, even while the words and sounds had no meaning. Of course there were also times when Mom was sad. She was frustrated, even frightened, by the mental fog and confusion, which she could not penetrate. Throughout much of her cognitive decline the children took turns inviting Mom to stay in their homes—at least for a night or two—to give those who were taking care of her some respite, to stay connected with what was left of her personhood, and in order for the grandchildren to do the same. Mom has lived full time with Sherri and Bob since Dad passed away. We do so love them for how they cared for Mom, right to the very end.
Jeanne is the last of our parents’ generation, save for 3 beloved spouses of Dad’s siblings (Beau Woodbury, Blix Thompson and Irene Thompson) who are still with us. The seven children are Sherri (Bob) Packer, David Jr. (Mary), Michael (Kelly), Shauna (Gary Davis), Keith (Chris), Joan (Laron) Lind and Alyson (Blaine) Lee. There are 50 grandchildren and 72 great grandchildren. Our loss is heaven’s gain. Mom is at Dad’s side once again, carrying on the work of heaven. We look forward to a future reunion with both of them.
A gathering of friends and family will be held 6:00 – 8:00 PM Tuesday April 10, 2018 at the Holbrook Mortuary, 3251 South 2300 East, Salt Lake City.
Funeral services will take place Wednesday April 11, 2018 at 11:00 AM at the Canyon Rim Stake Center, 3051 South 2900 East in Salt Lake City. There will also be a viewing at the stake center on the same date, just prior to the funeral, from 9:30 – 10:30 AM. As we did with Dad, in lieu of flowers we invite you to do something special with or for your family, and tell them you love them.
Funeral Audio. Available until July 10, 2018.