James Leroy Thomson was born south-east of Fairfax, in rural Atchison County, MO on March 12, 1929, the first child of James Gordon Thomson and Eleanor Elizabeth Dills Thomson. He was the eldest grandchild in both his maternal and paternal families. James received his elementary and secondary education in the public schools of Falls City, Nebraska, where the family had moved in 1936. He graduated from Falls City High School in 1948. The family then moved to Omaha, Nebraska in the spring of 1948, and James worked at the McKesson and Robbins drug warehouse for three years. During this period, James attended evening classes at Omaha University, achieving sophomore status. As he began his college studies, it was his intention to become a pharmacist, but events intervened and he made a commitment to study for the Christian ministry in the winter of 1950-51. In September of 1951, he enrolled as a full-time student at Park College (Parkville, MO) where he graduated in 1954 with a B.A. degree in Social Science/Political Science. He graduated with the B.Div degree (now called the M.Div degree) from the Theological Seminary of the University of Dubuque in 1958, with an emphasis on Rural Ministry. After spending an intern year (1956-57) at Thurston, Nebraska, he was licensed to preach in June 1956 and was ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament on June 8, 1958 at Mt. View Presbyterian Church in Omaha, Nebraska. The sermon was preached that day by his uncle, Leland Warren, who was a Presbyterian Minister at North Bend, Nebraska. James had celebrated 57 years as an ordained Presbyterian Minister at the time of his death. He was given the designation of “Honorably Retired” as of June 30, 1992.
On August 30, 1955, James married Kathleen Ruth Meyer in St. Joseph, MO. Five children were raised in this marriage, William Alan, James Robert, Ruth Ellen, David Scott, and Steven Kirk. This marriage ended in divorce in the spring of 1994.
James began his ordained ministry at McCallsburg, Iowa, and then served the Grand River Larger Parish, a National Missions’ project south-east of Kansas City, M for a year and a half before moving to Beaver City, Nebraska. Following his work at Beaver City, he served at Hope Church in suburban Omaha, then Dawson, MN, then at the Indian Point Church in Athens, IL. In 1979, he moved to Wisconsin where for 13 years he served in a series of short-term and interim situations: 7 years in various Presbyterian churches; 6 years with the United Methodist Conference. He was given the title, “Honorably Retired” on June 30, 1992. He then accepted an appointment to serve as Interim Pastor at St. Peters UCC Church in Saukville, WI, during which time he led the church in planning for the construction of a new sanctuary. After this, he moved to the Piper City, Il, First Presbyterian Church where he served as Interim Pastor for 18 months.
It was after returning from a visit with his son in Switzerland in January of 1994, while he was serving as interim minister in Piper City, that he met Marilyn Alexander. They were married on August 14th following a Sunday worship service. Following their marriage, James and Marilyn designed and supervised the building of their retirement home at Lake Glenn Shoals, just north of Hillsboro, IL. James then served as part-time Interim Pastor for 16 months at Salem, Il, before accepting the position of Stated Supply Pastor at Morrisonville, Il where he served for 5 years. Following a severe stroke, which Marilyn suffered in March 2001, they arranged to sell their lake home and moved to a double-wide mobile home in Springfield, IL to be closer to Marilyn’s daughter and medical care and to cut down on home maintenance and yard care.
James was proud to be the third generation of the Thomson family to serve the Presbyterian Church in an official capacity. His Grandfather, James Thomson, served as an Elder in the Presbyterian Church of Fairfax, MO for more than 60 years, during which he was elected as a commissioner to General Assembly and served as Moderator of the St. Joseph Presbytery for at least two terms. The elder James Thomson was affectionately known by many people in the Fairfax community as Mr. Presbyterian. James’ father, his father’s three brothers and three sisters and at least three of their spouses all served as Elders in the Presbyterian Church. One uncle by marriage, Leland Warren, as previously noted, was a Presbyterian minister, having been ordained in the Presbyterian Church of North America before it became a part of the United P.C. His grandmother’s sister, Ada McMurphy, served more than 40 years as a Presbyterian missionary in Korea, under the Southern P.C., teaching English in a church-related high school in Seoul, Korea during most of that time.
James was preceded in death by his parents, his second wife, Marilyn Katrina Paradies Alexander Thomson, his sister, Barbara Marie, who died shortly after birth, his brother-in-law, Lowell Campbell, and his sister-in-law, Joan Remington Thomson.
He is survived by his first wife, Kathleen Ruth Meyer Thomson of Longmont, CO, His brother, Rogers, his sisters, Harriet E. Campbell of Albuquerque, NM, Martha M. Bellamy (Dale) of Omaha, NE, and Janet J. Rose of Omaha, NE, his sons, William A. Thomson (Lisa) of Nashville, TN, James Robert Thomson (Natala) of Boudry, Switzerland, David S. Thomson (Michelle) of Boulder, CO, and Steven K. Thomson (Lisa) of Tacoma, WA, as well as his daughter, Ruth Ellen Thompson-Bird (Steve) of Longmont, CO. Additionally, James is survived by his step-children: Mark Paradies (Linda) of Knoxville, TN, Louis Paradies (Mary) of El Paso, Il, Christopher Paradies (Ona) of New York, NY, Margaret Alexander of Springfield, Il, as well as many step-grandchildren. James also had eleven grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and twelve nieces and nephews.
James enjoyed a number of hobbies and interests. He almost always had two or three reading projects of one sort or another under way. He enjoyed singing, and in several of the parishes in which he served, he joined the community chorus, and/or sang in the church choir. He participated in several presentations of Handel’s “Messiah.” James faithfully read the National Geographic, Popular Science, and Readers Digest magazines from cover to cover for many years, and was quite knowledgeable in matters geographic. He was a wood worker, and made a number of items for use in the home. He also completed several refinishing projects. For many years, he pursued the hobby of stamp collecting, collecting Mint U.S.A. plate blocks and singles. Although never a danger to Tiger Woods, he enjoyed a trip around the golf course several times each summer for many years. He claimed he could get as much exercise on nine holes as most golfers would get on 18. He promoted the Boy Scouts of America, achieving the rank of Star Scout, with many extra merit badges, and served as Assistant Scoutmaster in two different communities. James gave the scouts credit for enabling him to find even the most remote address when looking for a parishioner’s home, and for inculcating in him a love of the out-of-doors, and out door life. He was handy with things mechanical, and was not afraid to take things apart to see what made them tick. It should be noted that what he disassembled, he also generally reassembled. He enjoyed the hobby of photography, and most recently was in the process of becoming familiar with digital photography. He had taught himself to use the computer, and often asked how he had lived all those years of ministry without the use of a word processor. In the fall of 2001, after having been diagnosed with probable Parkinson’s Disease, with a resultant loss of fine motor control of his hands, he learned to use voice recognition software, so that he could continue to work on the computer.
In accordance with his wishes, James did not want a showy funeral but rather something simple so the money saved can be used to help with grandchildren’s educational expenses. For a man who devoted his life to the service of others, both in family and church, that seems like a fitting sentiment. A memorial service will be held Monday, March 28th at 10:30AM at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 3700 Baseline Road, Boulder, CO 80303. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.