Tribute to Robert Thompson

by Phil Johnson

Robert Thompson

1938 — 2021

Photo of Robert Thompson

Loved and admired by many, Robert Thompson’s absence leaves an empty feeling. Who can replace his voice, his keen wit, international understanding, friendship, and humor as Pietisten’s international correspondent?

Bob wrote hard-hitting assessments based on traveling world-wide for the United Nations. In addition to his commentaries on international situations, he sometimes wrote rather acerbic responses to Pietisten articles. We were lucky to have him.

Our families met in June 1986 in Geneva, Switzerland. Bob met Sandy, Eric (16) and me at the Geneva railroad station as arranged by Howard Rubin, Bob’s classmate at Berkley and Sandy’s employer. I had no idea Bob would become my pen pal, a colleague at Pietisten, and a life-long friend.

After a splendid walking tour of historic Geneva, he invited us to his home in the old city. Avenel and their girls, Catherine and Allison welcomed us. The day was a much-needed lift during our trip. Bob and I were planning to get together in Minnesota when, sadly, Covid-19 prevented it.

Our son, Eric, wrote, “Thanks for letting me know about Bob. That is such a loss of a good person and powerful intellect. One of those people I felt lucky to have met and known a little bit vicariously through your friendship with him. Also, one of those people (among others I’ve known) who I keep in mind to counter racial stereotypes that creep into my thoughts sometimes, even though I wish I could say they didn’t. He could no doubt go toe-to-toe intellectually with anyone. I’m sorry that you’ve lost a good friend.”

Bob respected everyone he encountered, from taxi drivers to chiefs of staff and sidewalk vendors in New York. He was a peacemaker. Walking the sidewalks of Manhattan where he lived after retiring from the UN involved meeting and visiting people on the street, many from foreign countries. He connected with and sparked up folks as we strolled along.

His contributions to Pietisten as international correspondent were brilliant and bold. More often than not, we printed Bob’s correspondence in “Post: Readers Write.”

Blessings on all of Robert Thompson’s friends and family, especially his daughters Catherine, Allison, and grandson Vincent, each of whom he was very proud.

Thanks, Robert. May you rest in peace if that is your choice.