Funeral services for Laurel Thompson, 90, West Plains, Missouri, will be held at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, December 17, 2022 at First Christian Church, under the direction of Robertson-Drago Funeral Home.
Laurel Ray Thompson, beloved son, husband, father, and grandfather, passed into eternity Wednesday morning, December 14, following a brief illness.
How can one write an obituary for someone who, by the grace of God and the love of another, made you? I am not certain it is possible, but I will try.
A life-long resident of West Plains, Laurel was born at his parents’ modest home on a high hill (where the county health department now sits) in West Plains on May 31, 1932. He no doubt lived the typical busy life of a small-town boy in the 1930s and ‘40s. He was fortunate to enjoy being surrounded by many aunts, uncles, and cousins on both his mother’s and father’s side of the family. He lived at several locations in the West Plains area and even in Seattle for a time when his father was in the Navy. His solo train trip to Seattle when he was 12—armed with more than one fried chicken and a plethora of doughnuts–made for a favorite story. Laurel began his education at home with his mother, who taught him numbers, letters, and how to tell time as she went about her household tasks. He started his formal schooling in a one-room schoolhouse and then attended D.W. Reese school on Grace Avenue. He graduated with the West Plains High School class of 1950, having attended classes at Central, which is now Looney Hall on the Missouri State University campus. It was in high school that Laurel met the love of his life, Margaret Myrtle Morrell. Margaret had moved to West Plains from Kansas with her parents when she was 16. The sweet couple married on March 17, 1951, in a small ceremony at the parsonage of the First Christian Church. After marriage, Laurel and Margaret moved to Kansas City while Laurel attended Central Technical Institute to attain his First-Class Radio Telephone license. When he finished his training, he and Margaret returned to West Plains where they have forever after made their home. Laurel is well-known for his long career in radio broadcasting and his civic engagement from the 1950s onward. For him and his family, his greatest accomplishments were his long marriage to Margaret and their family of five children. He said more than once that his goal was to help West Plains grow and prosper, to be a place where his children could grow up to live and work and raise their own families. It was for this that he selflessly and tirelessly labored at work and civic projects that he believed in. Laurel’s remarkable list of achievements began in his youth. Active in Boy Scouts, he was an Eagle Scout and was awarded the Order of the Arrow. In the mid-1950s, he was instrumental among community members who wanted their own hospital. Ozarks Medical Center came into being due fundraising efforts that allowed anyone, especially those of modest means, to support the financial goals. Once the hospital was a reality, Laurel was a walking blood bank for the hospital. He further served the hospital for 8 years as a board member and vice-chair. We cannot enumerate all of Laurel’s achievements here but will give some highlights. Laurel may be best known for his 40-year career in radio broadcasting at KWPM and in the Neathery cable television system. He enjoyed a second career in retail, and a third career as Public Information Officer for the City of West Plains. He worked for 13 years on the Chamber Advisor Committee for SMSU-West Plains, was a Rotarian for 47 years, a member of the West Plains Industrial Development Corporation and part of the Ozarks Development Corporation, West Plains Aero Club, West Plains Tourism Development Council, the Missouri Corridor Coalition (chairman), the Highway 63 Corridor group (co-chair), and the West Plains Civic Center Board. He was active in the National Association of Broadcasters and the Missouri Broadcasters Association, where he served as president. The list of accomplishments and honors goes on and on. He was probably most gratified by his work for the creation and administration of Ozarks Medical Center, his work to bring SMSU-West Plains into being, and ODC’s Ozark Sheltered Industries in Pomona. Education and opportunity for all were close to his heart. All his loved ones are so proud of, so awed by, all that he has accomplished and all the lives he has touched. He never sought the spotlight, though. For us today, the importation thing is that he was a loving husband, father, grand- and great-grandfather. He modeled service and humility all his life, in all aspects of his life. Taking family members, young and old alike, on their first plane ride; taking his children and grandchildren fishing—especially trout fishing on the White River—and hunting were among his greatest joys. He loved telling stories, and he had so many. He was a walking family and community historian. He will be remembered for his ready smile, his ready laugh, his ornery sense of humor, and his unwavering commitment to his family and his community.
He is survived by his wife, Margaret Thompson, of the family home; three children, Jim Thompson and wife, Sarah, West Plains, Russell Thompson and wife, An, Soddy Daisy, Tennessee and Vickie Petkovic, West Plains; nine grandchildren; ten great-grandchildren; one brother, Leon Thompson, West Plains; and several nieces and nephews.
His parents, one daughter, Sherrill Ann Thompson, one son, Steven Kent Thompson and one grandson, Jeffrey Scott Thompson, preceded him in death.
Mr. Thompson will lie in state from 5:00 until 8:00 p.m., Friday, at Robertson-Drago Funeral Home. Burial will be in the Oak Lawn Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to West Plains Rotary Club for the backpack program and may be left at or mailed to Robertson-Drago Funeral Home, 211 West Main, West Plains, MO 65775.
December 15, 2022 @ 1:58 pm
My condolences to the family. The Ozarks region has lost a civic champion and I have lost my best friend of 63 years. Be at peace my friend. Dave Black
December 16, 2022 @ 10:10 pm
Condolences to Mrs. Margaret and the entire family. I have had the pleasure to know Laurel my whole life. He was an inspiration to me. Prayers in the days and weeks ahead.
Terry and Sharon Stephens family
December 15, 2022 @ 8:28 pm
Our condolences to all the family.
December 15, 2022 @ 9:06 pm
I am saddened to learn of Laurel’s passing. I think he was the last of the Thompson cousins in my mother’s generation with the exception of Dorothea Thompson Jones.
Laurel and Margaret raised a beautiful family!
My prayers for Margaret and family.
Jean Lasater Adams
December 16, 2022 @ 11:04 am
So sad to hear of Laurel’s passing. Fortunate to work for him when he was in his retail career. Always enjoyed his smile, stories, and hideously corny jokes. His greatest delight was you telling him an even cornier one. He did so much for the area. He will be sorely missed. Condolences to all his family members.
December 16, 2022 @ 11:54 am
It is with sadness that I post my admiration for Laurel. Laurel was special. His obituary speaks to his enormous contribution to West Plains. The growth in our community for 70 years reflects his engagement. The hours spent during his life/career working for the betterment of our community is very impressive. Laurel made a difference. Our community is better because of Laurel. Laurel had many friends. His joyful personality and big smile were magnetic. It is hard to accept that he is gone. Margaret and family, please know that all of you are important as well. You are in my thoughts and prayers at this sad moment. travis
December 16, 2022 @ 12:08 pm
Laurel was one of a kind. I am honored to have worked with him for a few years at the City. He was full of so many stories and always had a smile to share. He knew it all! We could always count on Laurel for West Plains history. A true champion of West Plains. Prayers for peace for your family during this difficult time.
December 16, 2022 @ 1:19 pm
I have a hundred stories to share about this man. I got my First Class Radiotelephone license when I was 19 because of Laurel’s mentorship. I know of no one as well versed in electronic theory and practical knowledge as this man. I helped him install an FM transmitter at KALM, Thayer, all night one time about 50 years ago. We got it on the air by 4:00 a.m, and were headed home before daylight. Laurel was driving and I was drifting out of consciousness. All of a sudden Laurel grabbed my leg and let out a full throated cat like scream and I almost jumped out of my skin! He reminded of that about every time I saw him after that. I never went to sleep around him again! Laurel led me as an engineer over the years as live radio went to automation and satellite programming. As Chief Engineer at Troop G, I often called him for advice. Nothing technical stumped him. It is rare to find someone with his abilities with such a wonderful and caring personality. I was truly blessed to be a friend and in particular want to thank Margaret, Jimmy and the rest of the family for sharing him. I believe a crown of righteousness is his in the life to follow as I also know of his faith put into daily practice in the years I knew him.
December 16, 2022 @ 1:31 pm
So sorry, My thoughts and prayers are with all the family!!! Wanda Hunter.
December 16, 2022 @ 1:53 pm
What a wonderful, nice nice gentleman. I will always have fond memories of him. Helped to make Zizzers real Zizzers.
Teresa eldringhoff romans
December 16, 2022 @ 2:32 pm
Mr. Thompson was a kind man. West Plains will not be the same without him. Godspeed Mr. Laurel.
Steve & Patty Cromer
December 16, 2022 @ 2:51 pm
So sorry for your loss. Laurel was a very nice and kind gentleman. Prayers for all the family.
December 16, 2022 @ 7:49 pm
What a wonderful man and an example of what we all should be. Rest In Peace friend and may God be with your family during this loss
Greg and Gina Grisham
December 16, 2022 @ 7:51 pm
I could not possibly begin to say how much Laurel meant to me. He was one of the most genuine humans that I’ve had the opportunity to meet. I still share his stories. I’m particularly fond of the train ride to the west coast. It comes across as a grand adventure with the soldier who took him under his wing and the train nearly leaving them at the station and the chicken and doughnuts from Uncle Othel and Aunt Mable.
He told me of how Robert Neathery discovered the power of St. Louis Cardinal baseball one Sunday afternoon. He laughed telling how he applied a little too much torque on the wheel of his Uncle’s Grapette Soda truck. He talked of P.S. Cree and Paul Thornburgh and so many people of West Plains. It seemed like he knew the whole world.
Laurel will be missed awfully, but West Plains and his family and the world are so much better off having him in it. He truly ran a good race.
Ron & Marcia Stouffer
December 17, 2022 @ 9:21 am
We were saddened to hear of the passing of such a sweet soul. Laurel was always such a joy to be around. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family. We didn’t know in time to attend the visitation or funeral, but know our prayers are that God would comfort the family and give them peace, knowing that he has lit up heaven. We love this family!
December 17, 2022 @ 9:27 am
Margaret, Jim/Sarah & Families, Russell/An & Family, Vickie & Family, Leon & Families,
Our Deepest Sympathy to all of you on the loss of Laurel. He was such a Fine Christian Man who did so much and cared so much for all in our Community. His Smile, wonderful sense of humor, and caring for others will always be in our memories of him. Also, his comforting voice on KWPM is a treasure for me that will be close to my heart(Amber). He will be missed! At this time we will be keeping all of you in our daily prayers and thoughts. May God be with each of you daily giving comfort, peace, strength, and encouragement. May God bless all of you.
Tim, Amber, and Corby Redburn
David R. DeSpain PE
December 18, 2022 @ 12:43 pm
Laurel hired me when I was seventeen to help build KFTW in Fredericktown, Missouri. In the letter of application, I stated that I was sixteen, but would be seventeen by the time the job started. He taught me and my brother Dennis to water ski on Lake Norfolk. He had great faith in me, and was a great mentor, but he also always had a smile and a funny story. He and Margaret once told me that they considered me family, and I don’t think anything else has touched me more than that.
The early experience in broadcasting was the deciding element in getting a career at the Voice of America, the US’s international broadcaster.
December 18, 2022 @ 1:20 pm
I was sorry to hear of the loss of such a nice man in our family. The obituary was a very thoughtful tribute to him. Praying for comfort for all of you.
December 18, 2022 @ 9:32 pm
Laurel was a community man. He belonged to all of us. He will always be the voice if KWPM to me. Laurel was extremely talented, and we are fortunate that he chose to stay here and let West Plains be the recipients of those talents. I know his family morns his loss and I trust good memories, and I am sure there are many, help you through this time. Kay Garrett
Debra Shannon Pettit
December 19, 2022 @ 2:12 pm
Laurel will always be “the voice of West Plains” in my mind. I grew up listening to him on KWPM (AM, of course… I don’t think we had FM radio at that time !) His contributions to our community were many. My deepest condolences to the Thompson family.
December 19, 2022 @ 7:30 pm
Laurel was a good friend to my Aunt Ida Bean and me. When I moved here to West Plains, he would take me down to the Stuart Union Cemetery meetings and tell me good stories along the way. He loved going with 3 of his buddies all over the region to collect cars to sell here in West Plains. We were cousins through my great-great-grandfather John Stuart, and I welcomed having more family in the area – especially such a kind and thoughtful cousin. May the Peace of God be upon his family and friends as they grieve his leaving.
Greg and Renee Stephens
December 19, 2022 @ 7:30 pm
Greg and I are so sorry to hear of Laurel’s passing. Greg and I loved hearing his stories. He always had a smile.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of his family.
Greg and Renee Stephens
Hassel and Alice Vandergriff
December 20, 2022 @ 5:35 am
We are so sorry to hear of Laurel’s passing. We are praying for you, his loved ones and wishing for you God’s special care and blessing.
December 26, 2022 @ 5:57 pm
Margaret and family, so sorry to hear of this. My Mom and Dad were part of the KWPM family for many years. Many good memories there! ??Jim Clark
January 29, 2023 @ 8:36 am
Can’t you just hear that mellow, deep voice booming across the airways in heaven? Yep, that’s Laurel, helping to make the place better! What a man! What a legacy! A real champion of West Plains…and the human race!