Terry Thompson, a lifelong resident of Clarksville who dedicated his livelihood to emergency services, died of complications from heart disease May 16 at Howard County General Hospital. He was 71.
Starting as a volunteer firefighter at 18, Mr. Thompson maneuvered through the state’s emergency service industries his entire working life, ultimately becoming a top official at what is now the Maryland Department of Emergency Management.
The youngest of three children, Terry Edward Thompson was born to Willis and Edna Thompson, who together ran a farm supply store in Laurel. He became a 4-H member while growing up in Clarksville, showing dairy cattle throughout the mid-Atlantic alongside his family.
Mr. Thompson joined the Fifth District Volunteer Fire Department in 1969, the year he graduated from Atholton High School and began working at his family’s business, which became a deli and liquor store in the mid-1980s.
Although he worked at the family business for over two decades, Mr. Thompson’s work as a volunteer firefighter became a driving force of his career as well as his personal life.
He met his eventual wife, Patty Redmond, through a fellow volunteer at the Fifth District department who asked Mr. Thompson to drive her home as a favor. The two married in 1971, a year after they started dating.
The couple had two children, Theresa Collins and Patrick Thompson.
The children took after their father, with his son showing cattle at livestock shows and his daughter serving in the Savage Volunteer Fire Department for over 26 years, according to Patrick Thompson, who is now a funeral director at Slack Funeral Home in Ellicott City.
Mr. Thompson continued his education at the then-Catonsville Community College and earned an associate degree in fire science in 1973. He became one of the youngest fire chiefs in the area at 27, when he was named chief of the Fifth District department. He was also part of the Savage Volunteer Fire Company.
Throughout the 1970s, Mr. Thompson became involved in groups such as the Maryland State Firemen’s Association, where he would eventually move through the ranks to become president in 2003 and later a trustee.
Doug Alexander, a longtime friend and fellow member of the firemen’s association’s board of trustees, described Mr. Thompson as having strong opinions on matters before the board, which administers benefits for firefighters injured or killed in the line of duty.
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“He didn’t mind telling you how he felt and why,” Mr. Alexander said. Mr. Thompson often had disagreements with Mr. Alexander on issues of policy, but the squabbling never had an effect on their friendship.
In the mid-1990s, Mr. Thompson left the family business to dedicate more time to emergency services, working full time as a Howard County 911 dispatcher for several years before eventually becoming chief of staff and senior liaison at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, which in 2021 became the Maryland Department of Emergency Management.
Mr. Alexander said Mr. Thompson, a state employee who also once worked as a campaign treasurer for former Maryland Sen. Tom Yeager, was instrumental in helping fellow trustees work with government officials.
“He knew all the players, and he knew the law very well,” Mr. Alexander said.
Outside work, Mr. Thompson had a love for baseball, enjoying both the Orioles and watching his grandsons play in recreational leagues. He also participated in 4-H alongside his grandsons, becoming affectionately known as the “mayor of the cow palace” for his volunteer work during the Maryland State Fair, according to Mr. Alexander.
Mr. Thompson is survived by his wife, Patty Thompson of Clarksville; a son, Patrick Thompson of Clarksville; a daughter, Theresa Collins of Westminster; and a sister, Carolyn Downey of Williamsport. He was predeceased by his parents, Edna and Willis Thompson, and brother W. Francis Thompson.
Mr. Thompson was buried May 24 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fulton following a livestreamed funeral service.