Marylyn B. Thompson, beloved wife to the late Ralph H. Thompson, (Lt. Col., USAF Ret.) died peacefully at age 98 on August 16, 2023, at Clemson Downs. She was born in Warsaw, Indiana on December 27, 1924, to the late Milo Paul and Madelyn Essig Bright and was the younger sibling to the late Robert Paul Bright, (Lt. Col. USAF Ret.)
Marylyn grew up in Sparta, Wisconsin, and graduated from Sparta High School in 1942. She attended the University of Wisconsin before joining the workforce as a bookkeeper for the local gas company near her hometown.
On January 6, 1946, Marylyn married 1st Lt. Ralph H. Thompson after his return from overseas duty during WWII. Their commitment to love, trust, faith, and laughter lasted until the day they died.
For 30 years, Marylyn was an Air Force wife, raising two daughters, Sara and Martie, in 21 duty locations across the United States and Europe. She became the consummate packer, mover, event planner, administrator, decorator, organizer and often - single parent, while Ralph flew missions. Marylyn’s keen sense for accounting kept the Thompson household afloat and on a tight budget. She learned to sew, creating everything, from her girls’ school and doll clothes to their matching party dresses, her own formal evening gowns, and even hats for Officer Wives Club luncheons. When Ralph was in Viet Nam, Marylyn took art classes, using acrylics and pallet knife. Though her various “Crying Clown” paintings have long since been retired, aka “trash canned” by both daughters, one is still held in high regard by her “adopted son”, (then former 2nd Lt.) Mike Diamon, who to this day proudly displays his Clown, above the toilet in his guest bathroom!
In August 1973, Marylyn and Ralph retired from Air Force life at Shaw AFB, and moved to Clemson, SC. where they quickly settled into a welcoming community. With Sara just married, and Martie entering Clemson, Marylyn wasn’t ready to stay idle long. She went to work at Clemson University in the Dept. of Electrical Engineering handling research grants and contracts for the department. Saturday was for the Tigers and like so many Clemson fans, Marylyn and Ralph felt their tailgating group was the best in the Valley. There was always room for fresh flowers, silver candelabras, Bloody Marys, and a few hopeful students onboard as the chartered bus made its way to away game road trips.
Marylyn and Ralph were led to University Lutheran Church (UNILU), after many years of Military Chapel life. Nearly fifty years later, Marylyn is still a member. When Marylyn retired from her position at the University, the Clemson Community continued to be her home, and no amount of persuasion from her daughters could tempt her to move closer to them in Virginia. Playing Bridge, being one of the “Buds”, meeting friends daily at the dining room, and watching Clemson football had all become her happy place. During football season, Marylyn kept a close eye on “her” players – the players she met and chatted with at Publix. She was the armchair coach Dabo never knew he had, and she always had an opinion on what she considered poor officiating calls.
In 2017, Heather Skelton joined Team Marylyn and became unofficial Daughter # 3. Yes Mom, you should have known, we sold your car to Heather! Marylyn is survived by her daughters Sara Callaway, (John) of Vint Hill, VA, and Martie Saks (Charlie) of Christiansburg, VA, two grandchildren, John Kristian Callaway and Amy Tompkins, two great-grandchildren, Daniel Callaway and Adrienne Lewis, also of Virginia. The great-grandchildren are blessed with fond memories of time spent with “Clemson Gramma”.
Thank you, Mom, for being a wonderful example of a life well lived. We will always remember “Vodka on the Rocks, with an extra glass of ice” and shredding your Will in defiance when we sold your car!
We have, and always will continue to love you bunches.
A private service will be held at Memory Gardens Cemetery, on a later date, TBD.
A celebration of Marylyn’s life will be held at The Corley Room, 150 Downs Blvd., (Clemson Downs) on Sunday, September 3rd from 2:00 to 4:00PM. Please join us - All are welcome.
Marylyn and Ralph loved their Clemson community – They loved everything about Clemson, but especially the students whose hopes and dreams are what brought them to the University when their eldest child, Sara, began her studies in 1969. Their faith kept their 62-year marriage thriving until Ralph’s passing, November 2, 2007.
Due to severe allergies please do not send flowers. In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to the University Lutheran Church Campus Ministry – Clemson, 111 Sloan St., Clemson, SC, 29631 or a charity of one's choice.
Duckett-Robinson Funeral Home is assisting the family.