Month: June 2019

Wayne Thompson : A Life

Wayne Thompson, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, passed away peacefully in his home on June 20, 2018.

Wayne Thompson

Wayne lived a life that never included much thought about death, but despite his knack for living day-by-day he left a proud legacy.

Wayne was born poor and short, and with hard work he overcame poverty, but never overcame being short. This is only noted because he joked about his height, and while he joked, he didn’t really seem to mind.  He looked for things to laugh about, and was among the rare few who could make any situation manageable through humor. He never laughed at you, only with you, and only then if he really liked you.

Wayne’s greatest attribute was his sense of humor, something that made his difficult life bearable. No, he made it great despite the cards he’d been dealt.

Life for him started hard and was rarely easy.  When he was three, his father died from brain cancer leaving his mother with four kids to raise on her own.  Soon after, she was diagnosed with epilepsy and, as you can guess, the family struggled to even eat. The two oldest kids were out of the house as soon as possible and Wayne’s brother, who remained, had his own struggles, so the care of their mother fell on Wayne. He didn’t get to play after school with the other kids. Instead he had to rush home to care for his dying mother. When she fell to the floor in convulsions from epileptic seizures it was his job to keep her from hurting herself.  He did everything he could, but despite his greatest efforts, she died when he was 11.

After his mother passed, their home on Alpine Street, and everything they owned was auctioned off to pay for the medical bills and expenses. Eleven year old Wayne watched as everything that remained of his family was snatched up by the highest bidder. When he was in his twenties, and had a good job, he returned to that house on Alpine Street and bought it back. He only lived there with his family for a short time, but he had made something right that had once went wrong.    

Wayne in the late 1950s

As a new orphan he had an offer from a wealthy Newnan family to live with them, but his eccentric aunt talked him into living with her instead in her shotgun shack that sat high on a hill on East Broad Street.  She raised him in her mill village home where he lived in the attic and fended for himself. He learned to fight and learned to work. Soon after he started a grass cutting business and filled a sock full of cash before his oldest brother took him to California. Wayne believed he finally would have a normal life and family, but his big brother drove him back to Georgia after a few months and left him sitting on the steps of their aunt’s house. When Wayne told the story years later he joked that “Return to Sender” was playing on his brother’s car radio. Humor saved his life again.

Wayne Thompson survived puberty and his teenage years without a father. He learned how to be a good man from listening to the messages of the parents on TV like Ward Cleaver of “Leave it to Beaver” and Andy Griffith on another popular show from the 1960s.

Soon after high school he met a dark haired, blue eyed girl, Donna. She was from a broken home with an alcoholic father, and she needed someone with a sense of humor about life. It worked as well as anything either of them had known so far, and together, they clawed their way from poverty to success. Maybe not the type of success that’s written about in Forbes magazine, but the type of success that anyone who knows what real happiness is strives for.

They worked their way into steady and rewarding jobs. Wayne became one of the first employees of Federal Express, and became Newnan’s first Fedex courier. He was smart, so they moved him from a courier into management. But he liked talking to people, and left the office and returned as a courier where he could talk to people every day.

With his wife they owned several nice homes, found a church they loved, made great friends, and raised two boys who grew into men who knew how to love. He even had a good dog who loved him. They had everything. They laughed often, usually until it hurt; because if you have to hurt it should be while laughing.

Wayne’s perfect world lasted about 15 years before tragedy struck again. He had become a pilot and a real estate agent, but kept his job at Federal Express for the benefits, and because he loved that company. He would get up long before sunrise, unload packages from planes at the Atlanta airport, and then return to Newnan to sell houses, often to families who couldn’t find a realtor because the homes they could afford didn’t bring a high enough commission for most agents. It was on one of those early mornings when a tractor trailer ran a stop sign and collided with his small economy car. It was the first new car he had owned in his adult life, but he was still sensible. Airbags weren’t common then and his head slammed into the car frame and the floor shifted and crushed his legs. His dog howled and cried the night of his accident. Somehow she knew. He was in a coma for days, and then was in a deep sleep for many more.

When he finally awoke it was not what the family expected. He didn’t wake up and wonder what happen, like they do on TV. He woke up a different man. What he did keep was his sense of humor. Even before he knew his own name again he made jokes. Humor saved him … again.

It would be two years before Wayne came home again, because it took him that long to relearn how to do the simplest things that most of us take for granted. Some things he never learned to do again. He was permanently damaged, both mentally and physically. From then on he hurt every day of his life, but he never stopped smiling, and he never complained about the pain.  

There were other struggles in his life. Some people tried to take advantage of him, but in the end they lost and he forgave. He even prayed for those who had hurt him. Most people would hold a grudge forever, but he didn’t. He turned it over to God and moved on with a smile.   

He grew old fast, but enjoyed his life. He lived next to his son and grandsons during his final years on the beach in South Carolina, where he enjoyed watching his grandsons play. He liked being close to his son, Tim.

In the end Wayne returned to watching television, and died watching TV in his favorite chair. The television had taught him good lessons as a child. Those old shows comforted him again, like a talk with one’s father. Speaking of fathers, he never remembered his father in life, but now you can bet he’s talking to him in Heaven.  

Scott and Wayne Thompson – Around 1981