By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Whether it was in the classroom or on the golf course or on the tennis court, Harold Thompson loved to teach.
“He was one who certainly helped me with my (golf) game early,” said Doug Harvey. “I remember him being out there, helping us with our swing when we were hitting balls.
“He was a good guy. Years later, every time when I saw him, he’d always talk to me. He was an all-around good guy. That’s for sure.”
Thompson died Monday night at his home, surrounded by family. He was 86.
Thompson, a 1944 graduate of Joplin High School, began his teaching and coaching career at Commerce (Okla.) in 1950. He returned to Joplin the next year and began a 35-year career with the Joplin R-8 District as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal and athletics director.
He was athletics director from 1976-86 and helped oversee the consolidation of Parkwood and Memorial schools into Joplin High School in 1985.
“Harold Thompson was one of the most organized people I have been associated with,” said Mickey Heatherly, former coach at Parkwood, Memorial and JHS. “He would make sure you had your equipment ordered and anything else you needed for your program. He would always come around and make every school at least two or three times during a week to see if you needed anything. He always took care of his job like you were supposed to do.”
In 1955 Thompson began the golf and tennis summer programs for the City of Joplin, and for 20 years he gave youth and adults lessons in both sports.
“Harold really got me started playing tennis when I was about 45 years old,” said George Garrison. “I was his tennis partner for about 12 years. We played tennis twice a week — every Tuesday and Thursday — every week for years and years against several guys around here. Harold was very competitive. We played in a bunch of tournaments in the area and won a bunch of trophies.”
He was inducted into the Joplin Golf Foundation Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Joplin Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
Harold and his wife Betty were married for 63 years.
“He really cared about his wife,” Heatherly said. “He would talk about what they were doing or what they had been doing, their activities in the community.
“If there was a Joplin man around, he was a Joplin man.”
“I don’t know if I had a closer friend than Harold,” said Garrison, also Thompson’s golf partner. “He was comical, always upbeat, always had a smile on his face. I’ll never forget his smile. He was just a dandy guy.”