John Anton Thompson, age 71, from Stockholm, South Dakota, died Monday, October 17, 2016 in Tempe, Arizona.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, October 29, 2016, at 2:00 p.m. at Elim Covenant Church in Stockholm. Burial will be at the Evergreen Cemetery in Stockholm with full military honors. A celebration of his life will follow at the Stockholm Community Center.
Visitation will be at Mundwiler Funeral Home in Milbank from5-7 p.m. on Friday, October 28, and will continue on Saturday for one hour prior to the time of service at the church.
John was born to Theodora and Jack Thompson on July 7, 1945 in Milbank. The fourth of ten children, John grew up on the family farm near Stockholm and worked on ranches throughout his teens. Following high school, he guided hunting and fishing expeditions on the North Slope, Yukon Delta, and the Peninsula of Alaska, and in Idaho. John graduated with a degree in Biology and Education from Northern State University, Aberdeen in 1968. In 1967, during his sophomore year, he entered service as an Aviation Reserve Officer Candidate in the U.S. Navy Reserve. John married Cheryl Ann Sylvis of Sioux Falls, November 30, 1968. They have two sons, John and James.
John was commissioned a Navy Ensign October 10, 1969 and entered flight training in 1970. Selecting helicopter training, John earned his Aviator Wings in January 1971. He reported to Naval Auxiliary Field Fallon, Nevada, flying 36 search and rescue missions, and was promoted to Lieutenant. He augmented to Regular Navy in 1972. His distinguished career includes service aboard aircraft carriers USS Constellation, USS New Orleans and USS Coral Sea; service at Naval Air Station, Fallon; Imperial Beach Naval Air Station, California; Cubi Point Naval Air Station, Republic of the Philippines; Naval Recruiting District, Minneapolis; Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California; Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia; and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Commander Thompson retired his duty July 27, 1992.
John held a deep commitment to his nation and family. He enjoyed flying helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft in the “desert Navy” at Fallon and China Lake, where he executed search and rescue missions of downed pilots and civilians lost in rugged, mountainous terrain. Fellow aviators considered John, callsign “Falcon,” to be an “excellent stick.” He received commendations and promotions due to his courage, leadership and aviation skills. He was promoted to senior rank of Commander in 1983 as the Executive Officer for the Naval Recruiting Command in Minneapolis. In 1988, Commander Thompson served as USS Coral Sea’s “Gun Boss,” responsible for all conventional and nuclear ordnance for the carrier and embarked air wing. During the Mediterranean deployment, the USS Coral Sea, and specifically the Weapons Department, provided exemplary support for air cover during the Lebanon hostage crisis and evacuation of the American Embassy.
In 1976, Commander Thompson designed and integrated a Master Electronic Warfare Training Range, now operated as Strike University at Fallon Naval Air Station in support of current Navy “Top Gun” training. As a Lieutenant in 1973, John was deployed with Navy Squadron HS-6 on the USS New Orleans as a recovery aviator for the rescue of American astronauts from the Joint United States/Russian Apollo Soyuz space flight. Commander Thompson’s last duty was directing above ground simulated nuclear testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
An avid outdoorsman, naturalist and farmer all his life, John enjoyed hunting and fishing in New Mexico, Idaho, Nevada and South Dakota, and specifically enjoyed the whitetail deer on his Stockholm farm. John and Cheryl spent many lovely evenings at sunset, watching deer grazing in their fields. Working the land was very important to John, and he planted corn in the spring, and harvested corn in the fall for the deer. He planted hundreds of trees wherever he lived throughout the west. John instilled his love of nature to his extended family and friends, to his sons, and especially to his beloved grandchildren, Reilly, Charlie, and Reese.
John is survived by his wife Cheryl (Sylvis), sons John (Denise), and James (Kathleen); grandsons Reilly and Charlie and granddaughter Reese; sisters Catherine (Dennis) Martenson, Elizabeth (Thomas) Campbell, Patricia Fredlund, and Dorothy “Bill” Diaz; brothers Richard (Jane), Charles (Christie), James (Peggy), David (Nadine), and Allen (Myra); mother-in-law (Marge) Sylvis; sisters-in-law Carol (John) Snobeck, Connie Taylor (Mark Volden), Cindy (Dennis) Senger, and Cathy (Jonathan) Rubin; and numerous loving nieces and nephews, and family friends.
Preceding John in death were his mother and father, his father-in-law, WWII Navy Veteran, Gerald Sylvis, brother-in-law William Diaz, and niece Theresa Schmig.