My family moved to Montague California when I was in the 2nd Grade. Upon entering the 3rd grade there I made fast friends with Gary Thompson. We played together every day. Upon moving to
Arkansas that summer of my 4th grade year, I really missed Gary. Then we moved many more times and I lost track of him over the years. Then in 1981 I was working in Salem Hospital when I had
to go take an x-ray of a guy who broke his arm. So I went to the ER and assisted the guy over to the x-ray dept. I sat him down at the end of the table and was getting ready to take his films when I
noticed the name was Gary Thompson. He was my age. I thought for a second. Nah. But, I asked him if he ever lived in Montague. He said yes. He grew up there and graduated HS from there. I asked him if he lived in a little white house in the middle of town. Yea...? He looked at me for a sec and he said Richard ? I replied yep. Its me. We got a little carried away for a moment, then I
remembered what I was actually doing, and so we got the images done, and I took him back to the ER. I told him to wait in the lobby after he got his cast and I would see him then.
We renewed our friendship and it seemed as if nothing had changed. We saw each other all the time after he retired from teaching. His wife and us went to Reno a couple of times and have great
5 years ago he was diagnosed with lung cancer. A form of mesothelioma. He said that they re-did the grade school in Montague back in 75 but they kept having classes while they worked on
parts of the school. In doing so the contractors tore out the old ceiling panels. Which were made of asbestos. Not knowing the problems back then, no one knew of the problems it would cause.
But that is what got him. He won a lawsuit, many years ago, when he first started showing signs of breathing problems. That money allowed him to retire and take care of his wife and kids forever.
He died last night. Peacefully. At home with his family and us around him. I am just glad that I got to find my friend again and renew a much treasured friendship.
One of the things that was done last night was giving me a gift he wanted me to have. After he died and everything, Jill his wife, gave me a box. Inside that box was a cardboard box that looked
like a Gi's footlocker. In it was the toy soldiers and stuff that he and I played with all the time. It is the best gift I have ever got.
What is so weird is that his grandson looks just like him when I knew him in Montague. Same smile, same laugh. And that is cool.
I will say one last thing about Gary. He never complained about the pain and misery he was in. Never. He laughed and smiled all the way to the end.
How we became best friends. Wayne Churchhill was a red headed little shit whose family had money. He was slightly bigger than the rest of us, so he picked on kids. His house was two blocks
from Gary's house on the same road. Everyday, he would bully Gary on the way home. It got so bad that one day, Gary just walked into our house and asked if I would hide him from Wayne. It seems
that Wayne wanted to "pound" Gary for something. So I looked outside and there was Wayne and these two other kids looking around our yard. I went out to see what was going on. After the
confrontation started, Wayne threatened to pound me. So I hit him as hard as I could right in the chest. He fell down and started gasping for air. I looked at the other two boys and made a
lunge for them too. They both ran away. I went back to Wayne and told him that from now on I was going to punch him in the chest everyday unless he stopped picking on the other kids.
Problem solved. I found out later that Wayne died in a car wreck. Gary told me years later he was a **** all the way through high school. No one shed a tear when they heard he died.