Sunday Stories - Gerald Thompson, or the beginning of the Sutherland Sailors

If people today don't think we owe a debt to souls in the past who gave of themselves to create a better life for their communities, this is a lesson on how such dedication can have a lasting impact into the future.

Gerald N. (Jack) and Jessica (Smith) Thompson Family

Gerald Norvin “Jack” Thompson was born at Atkinson, Nebraska, May 28, 1910 to Dwight Lyman (1877 – 1946) and Rose Ellen (Sturdevant) Thompson. Though they resided in Gothenburg at the time of his birth, Jack’s mother went to stay with her sister in Atkinson during the time of his birth. Jack spent his entire youth in Gothenburg. In 1933, he met Jessica Smith at a dance in Gothenburg. They were married August 12, 1933.

Jessica was born February 27, 1913, at Ingham, Nebraska to Jessie Edmund Smith (1863-1924) and Maude (Teel) Smith (1877-1972). Jessica lived on a farm near Ingham until age 16. Maude and her children moved to Brady, after the death of Jesse made it impossible for them to stay in Ingham. Maude and her children ran the Brady Hotel for some time, and this is where Jessica lived when she met Jack Thompson.

They began their married life by moving to Sutherland in August, 1933, where Jack was appointed the position of Coach-Teacher. With one previous year of teaching in Stockham, Nebraska, the year before, and jobs being scarce, he remembers feeling fortunate that he was selected from several applicants who applied.

As Sutherland School had no “sports” program when he arrived, Jack enjoyed coaching and introduced football, basketball, and track to establish a sports program for Sutherland School. First, “well used” football uniforms were purchased from Maywood. Jessica remembers her task of mending them after each game in preparation for the next game. They could not be cleaned in any way or they would fall apart. There was no football, so Jack donated his Wesleyan U football (autographs and all) to the cause. A school team “name” was next.
The Sutherland Sailors are still proud of the Thompson Legacy - as one of the only schools in the country with Sailors as their mascot.
The Sutherland Reservoir was under construction at that time, so Jack suggested “Sutherland Sailors" for the team name and when that was adopted, he wrote the word to the “school song”. Jack coached from 1933 thru 1938. During this time, he and Jessica became the parents of Bob (Robert Eugene), Bill (William Donald), Carol Colleen, and Dwight Allen. Rosalie was born in 1940. Jack and Jessica began dairying while they rented the Boyle place located on the north edge of Sutherland. Then in 1940, they moved to, and a year later bought the Farrell farm located one and a half miles west of Sutherland where they still live today (circa 1991).
Many additions and improvements have been made to the Sutherland school over the years.
Jerry (Gerald Vernon) was born at home on the “Thompson farm”. Then came Donna Mareen, Franklin Lee, Madeline and Dennis Byron. All six boys and four girls attended and were graduated from good ole’ Sutherland High.

Making a living for a large family on that little dairy farm proved to be quite a struggle for the Thompsons. Prior to selling bulk milk, Jack and Jessica bottled raw milk and delivered it around town to residents, stores and cafes. All the kids helped with milking, feeding, farmwork, housework in whatever way they could.

4-H clubs were the main summer activities, along with the farm work. Various school activities and studies, some part-time jobs filled the fall and winter hours. Jack was civic minded and enjoyed serving on the School Board and the K and L Ditch Board. He also enjoyed singing in the Methodist Church Choir; and for a time, he and Jessica belonged to the Square Dance Club in Sutherland.
Sports remains an important part of the life of Sutherland students.
After fulfilling their service obligations, all the boys settled into various occupations, among them engineer, farmer, game warden, railroad worker, rancher, veterinarian; the girls all married and work also, selling real estate, secretarial-computer works, etc. Most of the ten children are still very close to the Sutherland area. Dwight is farming west of Sutherland; Bob lives in town; Frank lives east of the NPPD plant where he works, Jerry and Carol live in North Platte. Bill is ranching west of Tryon. Rosalie returned from Oregon and is presently staying with her folks. Donna resides in Arizona and Madeline in California. Jack and Jessica can still be found at the “Thompson” Farm” in the big old stucco house where they raised their family, and where they have lived for over 50 years.


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