Donald R. "Don" Thompson, age 94, of Madison, passed away on Monday, June 23, 2014 at Heritage Monona. He was born on Oct. 18, 1919 in Chicago, Ill., to Lillian and Sherman Thompson. Don grew up in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and graduated from Glenbard High School in 1937. He attended North Central College in Naperville, Ill., graduating in 1941 with a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry and Zoology. Don held a job as a chemist for the Cook Chocolate Co., and then attended the University of Illinois, attaining a Master's Degree in Zoology in 1942. He took Army Air Force Officer training at Yale University in 1942 but was later given a medical discharge from the Service, as a second lieutenant. Don moved to Joliet, Ill., in 1944, where he worked as a chemist for the Blockson Chemical Co., of Lockport, Ill. In 1947 Don accepted an opportunity to study under famed environmentalist Aldo Leopold at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He was to be Professor Leopold's last graduate student, and was granted a Master's Degree in Wildlife Management in 1948. In 1949, Don married DeLores Gunderson Lynch. They made their home in Madison, Wis., and raised two children, Sher and John. Don was active as a Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts program. He began a career with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (formerly the Wisconsin Conservation Department) in 1947, serving as a wildlife research biologist and statistician.
In 1982 at age 62, he retired from the DNR as Chief for the Bureau of Research's Technical Services Section. Don had a lifelong passion for science, particularly astronomy, geology and botany. He delighted in sharing nature with his family and others, enjoying many outdoor activities including hunting, fishing, canoeing, hiking and camping, and was a veritable walking encyclopedia about natural phenomena. Don engaged in hobbies such as lapidary (jewelry making with gemstones) and photography, and was active in local clubs promoting them. He also cherished many happy hours in the company of the various family dogs over the years. In 2007, Don was honored for over 20 years of service in the Dane County RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program), sharing his love of astronomy and rocks, minerals and gems with school children throughout the county.
Don is survived by his wife, DeLores of Madison; daughter, Sher Olson of Madison; son, John (Jamie) Thompson of Boulder, Colo.; step-grandson, Theron Connor of Madison; grandson, Erik (Suzey) Olson, and great-grandson, Evan Olson of Albuquerque, N.M.; grandsons, Adam (Jenn) Thompson of Denver, Colo., and Nathan (Jasmine) Thompson of Lafayette, Colo.; daughter-in-law, Derry Thompson of Erie, Colo.; nieces, Karen Bartlett and Susan (Harry) Schlabach of Wheaton, Ill.; and also by grand-dogs, Jernie Olson and Cedric Connor.
He was preceded in death by his parents; siblings, Palma Johnson and James Thompson; and a special nephew, Richard Thompson; plus many beloved pets.
A memorial service celebrating Don's life is planned for 2 p.m., Saturday, July 19, 2014, at the GUNDERSON EAST FUNERAL HOME, 5203 Monona Drive, Madison. Donations in Don's memory may be made to the Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org) or the Alzheimer's Association (www.alz.org), which provides support to families and funds dementia research.
The family wishes to thank Heritage Monona and Agrace HospiceCare for their loving and skilful care of Don in his last months and weeks, and is grateful for the priceless assistance of Theron Connor, Don and DeLores's grandson and live-in helper for the past several years.