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Rosemont Remembers Its First Park District Director, Bob Thompson

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By LAUREN BARRY
Journal & Topics Reporter

Rosemont community members gathered at the corner of Scott and Granville streets Monday (July 6) to bid farewell to the Rosemont Park District’s first director, Robert C. “Bob” Thompson.

As the crowd greeted a procession coming from Our Lady of Hope Church in Rosemont, a sign with his name and nickname “Coach” was lit up at the corner at Margaret J. Lange Park. Years before, Thompson supervised construction and expansion of the park.

He would have approved of the gathering, according to Rosemont Elementary School Dist. 78 Supt. Kevin Anderson.

“He always had the kids in mind first,” Anderson told the Journal & Topics. “I can truly say he really cared about the community he worked for.”

Thompson, 84, passed away June 28. He grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where he dreamed of being a professional baseball player. After achieving that dream by playing for one year with the Chicago White Sox farm league, Thompson enrolled at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, where he earned a degree in education.

He had a long career teaching in Archdiocese of Chicago schools before becoming a junior high teacher and coach in Elk Grove Village. During his time in Elk Grove, Thompson earned a master’s degree in mathematics.

In 1966 he settled in Rosemont. There, Thompson was part of a group of residents who worked to create the park district and by 1968 was its first employee.

To perform his duties as director, Thompson retired from teaching and focused his attention on Rosemont.

“He was an awesome, awesome person,” said Rick Drehobl, Sr., of village charitable organization Rosemont Helping Hand. “He never had a bad word to say about anybody.”

Drehobl’s son, Rosemont police officer Rick Drehobl, Jr., worked at the park district when he was young. Drehobl, Jr. said he had fond memories of Thompson from that time and is “grateful to know the man.”

In addition to helping establish Lange Park, Thompson negotiated with Dist. 78 to provide swimming pool and gym access and helped develop the former Evenhouse playlot at Dunne Park while he was with the park district.

He handed over the reins of the parks to current Director Karen Stephens in 1987, she told the Journal, but continued to support the parks for many years. Stephens learned the ropes from Thompson during her internship with the park district. To her, what made him stand out was his ability to listen to what kids really wanted at the parks, whether it was an area for biking or an ice rink.

Even in retirement, Thompson was an active member of the community, said friend and longtime village employee Augie Sansone.

“He was a great man, kids loved him, adults loved him,” Sansone said. “He was very down-to-earth.”
Thompson is memorialized in the Thompson Room meeting room and kitchen at Lange Park.
Stephens was overwhelmed with emotion as she waited for the procession along with village staff, public safety officers and members of the community.

She described Thompson as “a special man, a perfect man.”

He is survived by his wife Jane Anne; daughters Victorine and Rebecca; son Matthew and six grandchildren as well as nieces and nephews.

Donald A. Greene Cremation services, Schiller Park, handled arrangements, according to a prayer card from Thompson’s funeral.

 
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