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updated: 7/28/2011 6:17 AM

Lake County loses lifelong educator

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  • BIll Thompson

    BIll Thompson

  • BIll Thompson, who served as a Navy pilot during World War II, is shown in a basketball uniform during his service days.

    BIll Thompson, who served as a Navy pilot during World War II, is shown in a basketball uniform during his service days.
    Courtesy Thompson family

By Danielle Gensburg

The only way to sum up William L. Thompson, a lifelong resident and prominent educator of Lake County, is to say that he was "loved by all, hated by no one."

Those words were dedicated to Mr. Thompson in a notice put up on Facebook by his 16-year-old grand nephew John Wood following his death Friday, July 22, at the age of 87.

Mr. Thompson of Antioch not only served as a teacher and principal, but also acted as assistant Lake County superintendent of schools from 1952-1958, superintendent of Fox Lake Grade School District 114 from 1961-1971, and Lake County regional superintendent of schools from 1975 until his retirement in 1987.

"He was a real people person," said La Verne Thompson, his wife of 38 years. "He just loved people, and education was the way that he could mingle with all different ages, and he treasured every different stage in life."

Lake County Regional Superintendent of Schools Roycealee Wood also had nothing but the highest praise for her longtime friend and co-worker.

"I've been in education since 1964 and knew Mr. Thompson for a number of years," Wood said. "He was always a wonderful resource. If I ever had a question I didn't know the answer to, I'd go to Mr. Thompson."

Wood also said Mr. Thompson had no reservations in sharing his expertise and was loved by everyone.

"He was a very fine and interesting gentleman. Everybody enjoyed working with him, everybody liked him. He was just a good man, and we're very sorry for the loss."

During his long tenure as an educator, Mr. Thompson hired teachers, conducted inspections of schools, monitored the buildings for health and safety, and was involved in laying the ground work for the College of Lake County community college district.

"When Bill came to do his visits, he spent more time with the students than he did looking through the papers and talking with professional staff," his wife said, adding with a laugh. "Almost always, some kid would say, 'That's one cool dude.'"

Even in employing teachers, Mr. Thompson was unique. "As Bill employed teachers, the most important aspect was not what was on their paper as degrees," his wife said. "He always felt teachers were born. He would interview each teacher on the basis of whether this is a teacher who instinctively has respect and everything a child needs."

Education, for Mr. Thompson, needed to be enjoyable, while educators needed to make children feel loved, his wife said. In 1998, Mr. Thompson received yet another high honor: Thompson Elementary School in Lake Villa was named after him.

Above all, colleagues, friends, and family described a man who was knowledgeable, loving, and personal.

"If I were to use one word to describe Bill, he was just a good person," his wife said. "He loved his home, dearly loved his grandchildren, loved his dogs, loved his friends. He taught me how to live."