Vice Admiral Donald C. “Deese” Thompson, USCG (retired), passed away Sunday, August 21, 2022, at Lower Cape Fear Life Care Hospice in Wilmington, North Carolina, at the age of 91.
The National Ensign was flown at half-mast on all Coast Guard buildings, grounds,
and vessels not underway from sunrise until sunset on Sunday, September 10, 2022, in honor of VADM Thompson.
VADM Thompson was born on November 9, 1930 in Hollis, New York, and was raised in Erie, Pennsylvania. He was a 1952 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and received a Master’s of Science degree from Purdue University in 1966.
Following graduation from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, VADM Thompson had two sea duty assignments, including a North Atlantic ice patrol and weather patrol; he completed Naval flight training and served at numerous aviation units from Alaska to Florida. His operational commands include Air Station Commanding Officer, Group Commander, and Captain of the Port. He held District staff assignments as Chief of Operations and Chief of Staff. VADM Thompson then served as Chief of Coast Guard Aeronautical Engineering in Coast Guard Headquarters.
Appointed to Flag Rank in 1979, VADM Thompson was assigned as Chief of Engineering followed by Chief of Operations, both at Coast Guard Headquarters. VADM Thompson was then assigned as Commander, Seventh Coast Guard District, Miami, Florida, where he was appointed as the Federal Coordinator for the Vice President’s South Florida Task Force on Crime, and became the first coordinator for the Southeast Region of the National Narcotics Boarder Interdiction System. He was then assigned as Chief of Staff in Washington, D.C., where he was the Coast Guard’s principal management and financial officer responsible for budgeting, planning, and resource allocation.
Appointed to Vice Admiral in 1986, VADM Thompson assumed the duties of Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area and Commander, U.S. Maritime Defense Zone Atlantic, where he was responsible for all Coast Guard operations in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, and Western Rivers; essentially everything east of the Rocky Mountains.
VADM Thompson’s awards include two Distinguished Service Medals, the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, four Coast Guard Commendation medals, Coast Guard Unit Commendation and Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Navy Expeditionary Medal and others. VADM Thompson accumulated 6,000 flight hours as a fixed wing and rotary wing aviator and was the Coast Guard’s “Ancient Albatross,” the earliest designated pilot on active duty, from 1985 to 1988.
VADM Thompson retired from the Coast Guard in 1988 and went on to manage an overseas airport and became vice president and corporate pilot for a local firm, and was a consultant to aviation and maritime ventures. He was an active member of The Basilica of St. Mary, a member of the Civitan Club, volunteered at the Cape Fear Free Health Clinic, and served on several local non-profit and national corporate boards.
VADM Thompson was preceded in death by his brother Arthur and his sister Marie. He is survived by his beloved wife of nearly 70 years, Jeanne (Kline) Thompson, as well as children Dennis (Patricia), Mitch (Barbara), Sandra Nolf (Randy), Janice Kiehl (Thomas), Theresa Sawyer (William), and Patrick (Kathleen), in addition to eighteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
For additional information on VADM Thompson’s life and funeral services or to share memories or express condolences online, please visit: https://www.andrewsmortuary.com/obituary/donald-thompson