Category Archives: Family and Friends

Remembering Mrs. Helen Thompson

Thompson1961Mrs. Helen Thompson, center, with students, in a photo from The Somerset Hills Exponent, May 25, 1961.

I’ve written about my favorite teacher from the Bedminster Township grade school twice before, a little in my article on our school newspaper and magazine, which she ran, and more in my article on the school itself. Mrs. Thompson taught English to my brothers and I in grades 6-8, and we all worked on the school publications doing art and, in my case, writing stories. I remember her as smart, entertaining in class, and very encouraging to me as a young artist and writer. Others remember that she was also a heavy smoker, and I’ve long wondered about how that might have affected her career and life. New information has come to light recently, so I thought I’d share it here.

While I spent lots of time with Mrs. Thompson in and after class, I knew nothing about her personal life except what little ran in the 1965 graduation issue of The Bed-Post, as part of a guessing-game called “Spotlight on People.” Mrs. Thompson was the subject of this entry:

ThompsonSpotlightWhile I saw Mrs. Thompson occasionally when I had moved on to High School in Bernardsville, NJ (when my school bus would stop at the Bedminster School to pick up more students), I lost touch with her at some point in that time. Recently my youngest brother Russ found some copies of the school publications from his grades 6-8 in 1968-70, and entries there filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge. from The Bedminster Tribune of Oct. 27, 1969:

ThompsonBestWishesAs you can see, Mrs. Thompson was out sick in the fall of 1969. I have no information on what the illness may have been, but I suspect that she did not return to the school. In the Spring, 1970 issue of The Bed-Post, this editorial by Ellen Burden appeared:

ThompsonDedicAs you might guess, Mrs. Thompson had passed away before the issue saw print, and with help from Patricia Bankowski, I now have her obituary from March 19, 1970:

Helen Thompson Obit 03191970I may have heard about this from my parents at the time, but if so, I had forgotten it, so it’s good to have that long-lingering question of what happened to Mrs. Thompson answered. The issue of The Bed-Post this appeared has replaced Mrs. Thompson’s long-standing credit as Advisor with “Acting Advisor: Mrs. Stout,” and the following year the Advisor credit went to a new English teacher at the school, Mr. Melovitz.

As noted in the obituary, Mrs. Thompson had no children. Her husband, J. Miller Thompson continued to live in Bedminster, and died in 1992 after remarrying a Mary E. Nevius, who died in 2000.


Wintry Thanksgiving


Thursday we made our annual trek to the northwest corner of New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with Ellen’s sister Ann and her family. This year it was the scene of an early snowfall of about 10 inches of very wet snow, making it much more like Christmas, visually.


It was perfect for snowballs and snowmen, and Ellen’s nephew Zach and I made on of the latter.


It had snowed the day before, so the roads were no problem, and it was kind of fun to be suddenly amidst a Winter Wonderland. We had no snow at all where we live in the southern end of the state.

Peter Yarrow in Concert

PeterYarrowEllen and I are long-time fans of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. I’d seen them twice in the 1980s, but Ellen hadn’t, so this past Friday, when she saw that Peter Yarrow of the group would be performing at nearby Stockton State College, she said, “Let’s go!” And we did. When we arrived, Peter was seated outside the Performing Arts Center signing his books for children (Including lovely picture-book and pop-up versions of “Puff the Magic Dragon”).

YarrowSigningThere were about 200 people at the show, many our age or older, but also a contingent of high-schoolers, and many waited in line for a personal moment with the artist, who was enjoying meeting and talking to everyone.

EllenwithPeterInside, it was a fine, fun show. Peter is getting up there in age, doesn’t sing real well, but he clearly loves what he does, and his enthusiasm, sense of humor, and stories about his life and career greatly enhanced the experience. He did some new songs, including “Never Give Up,” a new personal anthem co-written with the Dalai Lama, and plenty of numbers from the Peter, Paul and Mary catalog, including Mary’s hit, John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” and Paul’s “Wedding Song,” written by Noel Paul Stookey for Peter’s own wedding, and still very popular at weddings today. (We had it performed at ours.) The highlight of the evening for many, including Ellen, was the chance to join Peter on stage to perform “Puff,” that’s her in the pink shirt in the back. Peter began by inviting all the children present to join him, but when it became clear there weren’t many in this audience (he’d done an afternoon show geared for kids), he broadened the invitation to “children under 60.”

Ellen with Peter Yarrow from Todd Klein on Vimeo.

Here’s an excerpt from that performance to give you the flavor. We had a wonderful time.

Silver Anniversary


Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the day I married my true love, Ellen. This is my favorite picture from the wedding. We’re still in love, and it sure doesn’t seem like that long ago!


Today Ellen had an appointment in downtown Philadelphia, and I went with her. We made it a short day-trip to celebrate our anniversary, starting with a delicious lunch at this restaurant in the historic district. While the building and interiors look authentically colonial, I learned today by reading the fine print on the cornerstone that it’s a recreation of the original built in the 1970s. No matter, it’s still great fun. The food is excellent, and so is the beer. I had the Porter mentioned in the sign above, delicious!


Afterwards we walked around the historic district enjoying the atmosphere. We considered going in to see the Liberty Bell, but the length of the line discouraged us. I spotted the Curtis Building and had to visit the Parrish/Tiffany mural in the lobby there, which I love. A huge art installation, it was designed by Maxfield Parrish and executed in many thousands of pieces of iridescent favrile glass by the Tiffany Studios. It’s quite amazing, and impossible to get in one photo. Unfortunately, it’s poorly lit, which probably helps preserve it, but makes the colors hard to see and appreciate. I enhanced them some on these photos.


In this closer shot you can see some of the small pieces of glass forming the mosaic picture. I’ve just looked up the details, it’s 15 feet high by 49 feet wide, and made of about 100,000 pieces of glass. If you’re ever in Philadelphia try to stop in and see it.

After that we stopped at a used book store, bought a few things, and headed home before rush hour made traffic too crazy. A nice break for both of us.

Sand Sculpting with Friends


It’s been a few years since my friend Tim and his son Gabe were able to visit us in the summer. When they do, we always create some unusual sand sculptures, and that’s what happened this past weekend. Tim had some new sand sculpting tools,  WillySpheres, which do but one thing: make large spherical shapes, and we used them for our carvings. Continue reading