Mary E. Thompson, former teacher at St. Mary of the Assumption in Govans, dies

<a href="http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/obituaries/bs-md-ob-mary-thompson-20150820-story.html#navtype=outfit" target="_blank">Mary E. Thompson</a> was a kindergarten educator at St. Mary of the Assumption School in Govans, a pianist and coffee blender.
Mary E. Thompson was a kindergarten educator at St. Mary of the Assumption School in Govans, a pianist and coffee blender. (Baltimore Sun)

Mary E. Thompson, a former kindergarten educator, pianist and coffee blender, died Sunday of respiratory failure at Golden LivingCenter in Westminster. She was 94.

The daughter of Francis Xavier Dempsey, a Crown Cork and Seal Co. lithographer, and Mary Elizabeth Epple Dempsey, a homemaker, Mary Elizabeth Dempsey was born in Baltimore and raised on Eager Street.


She graduated in 1939 from the Institute of Notre Dame and during World War II worked as a secretary for the Navy and later the American Casualty Insurance Co.

In 1944, she married Clay G. Thompson, a printer, and later settled on Halwyn Avenue in Govans, where she raised their two children.


After her children were grown, Mrs. Thompson began teaching kindergarten students in 1962 at St. Mary of the Assumption School in Govans, and remained a faculty member until 1970.

"She was approached by her former students, many who are now in their 50s and 60s, with hugs and big smiles, and she remembered each and every one of them with anecdotes about them," said Susan Thompson, her daughter-in-law, who lives in Ruxton.

In addition to her teaching at the school, she was a communicant for many years of St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church and was active in the St. Mary's Mother's Club.

In 1974, her son, Thomas F. Thompson, established the Coffee Mill on Chestnut Avenue in Hampden, and later opened shops in Ellicott City, Brown's Arcade on Charles Street and Belvedere Square.


Mrs. Thompson worked for many years during the 1970s and 1980s at both the Hampden and Belvedere Square stores, where she waited on customers and blended coffees using arabica beans from Ethiopia and robusta, which is grown in Africa and Brazil.

"One blend was Allegro Con Brio, but I don't know what went into it because I'm a tea drinker," her daughter, Barbara T. Schmidt of New Freedom, Pa., said with a laugh.

"She wouldn't tell what went into it, but I think it had three beans one of which was the arabica and Colombian beans," her daughter-in-law said. "I know that it was served at a number of Baltimore's top restaurants."

Her son died in 2003.

When she was a teacher, Mrs. Thompson, an accomplished pianist, enjoyed playing for her students at St. Mary's and at church events.

After the births of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the maternity wing at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Mrs. Thompson would give an impromptu concert celebrating their arrival on the department's piano.

As a member of the Cockeysville Senior Center, Mrs. Thompson, who had moved to Mays Chapel, played piano there several days a week to entertain members and staff.

Mrs. Thompson also liked dropping into music and piano stores, where would sit down and start tickling the ivories with store owners and customers.

One of her regular stops was the Menchey Music Service Inc. in Timonium, where she enjoyed playing spontaneous duets with Tom Mathis, manager of the piano department.

"She'd come in unannounced and would start playing the piano. She loved to come in for holidays. If it were St. Patrick's Day, she'd come in wearing a green sweater and would play St. Patrick's Day songs. If it were Christmas, then she'd play carols," said Mr. Mathis.

"She played all of the old favorites and they just came out of her head. She knew a million tunes and had such an incredible memory for them," he said. "She could hear a tune in her ear and then improvise. She was a natural talent."

Customers would gather around and enjoy her playing, said Mr. Mathis.

"People would ask, 'Can you play this?' and she'd flip it right off," he said. "Music was such a big part of her life. She had a sharp mind until the end of her life. She was still playing, and the last time we played together was two months ago."

"On warm summer afternoons, in the days before air conditioning was widespread, all the windows of our Govans home were open and people could hear her playing," said her son, Gerald C. Thompson of Ruxton. "They'd come up and ask, 'Miss Mary, can we come in and listen?' She was a people person from day one and her true calling was being a pied piper with her piano."

Mrs. Thompson was a big fan of the British comedies that aired on public television and "Downton Abbey," her son said.

"Every afternoon, she'd chart out some time so she could watch those shows. She loved the characters," he said.

Mrs. Thompson was also an accomplished poker player.

"A grandson enrolled her in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, but once she got there, she refused to play because she didn't like losing money," her son said.

Mrs. Thompson was a gardener and especially liked raising roses.

Her husband died in 1983.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday in the chapel at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

In addition to her son and daughter, she is survived by five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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