I didn't know any of those things.
When Aunt Shirley asked me to write his obituary, I went on a quest and found out the man I so highly respected and admired still had secrets - good secrets. It was a real joy to get to know him all over again, to learn he was everything I always knew and loved. But more.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love people. Because in all of God's creations, they are His prized possession. And the more of them I know, really know, the more I feel the same.
So meet my Uncle Royce:
Royce Thompson loved working with wood. It was his hobby. One of them.
Oak was his favorite wood. It was sturdy and beautiful and infinitely strong. He would work delicately and precisely, smoothing his hand along the fine surface, working in companionship with the grain, using the strength of the wood as the backbone of his creation.
In life, Royce Thompson was that oak.
Born to Loyal and Opal Thompson on Feb. 16, 1931 in Henryetta, Royce was the first of six brothers. The oldest. He stood tall and straight and lived his life in the same manner.
“He was very well behaved,” said Harry Treagessor, a life-long friend. “To his parents, he was very loving. He wouldn’t disobey them at all. You couldn’t find anything wrong with him.”
Harry lived for a time with Royce and his parents, boys who grew up on the tale of the Depression. They lived together, hunted together, fished together, even purchased their shotguns on the same day.
“We’ve been good friends ever since,” said Harry, who said he and Royce spent a recent hour reminiscing about their youth.
Royce participated in the Diversified Occupation (DO) program at Henryetta High School, graduating in 1949. He eventually would be a successful and well-respected business man in the flooring industry. Through the DO program, he learned the accounting side while working for August Burzio and the technical side while working for his father’s company, Thompson’s Floor Coverings.
At the age of 19, Royce married his childhood sweetheart, Rosemary Blakeley, on December 23, 1950.
“He was the best person I ever knew in my life,” said Morris Palmer. He and his wife Lola were close lifelong friends with Royce and Rosemary.
Two years after marriage, Royce welcomed his son, Randy, who became a successful computer operator at American Airlines.
“We took trips everywhere,” said his only daughter RaJeana, born April 23, 1965. “We went to Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, and an across country trip from New York to L.A. It was just the four of us.”
Royce carved out a legacy in business, starting Royce’s Carpets and Draperies, a staple of the Okmulgee downtown for over 30 years. He had managed his father’s company until 1970, launching out on his own with a high-quality carpet business. He eventually closed his business to spend more time taking care of his aging father, who died in 2003, with his surviving brothers. He had lost a younger brother, Jimmy Thompson, at the age of 52 in 1992.
Royce had lost his wife on Dec. 19, 1989, two years after also losing his son. And for 15 years, he never remarried.
“We didn’t believe he would ever marry again,” said Glenn Thompson, his brother.
That, however, was before he met Shirley Hinds.
During a church camp held in Henryetta, Shirley walked into the kitchen and came face-to-face with her future husband. They were introduced by a friend.
“He told me, ‘I’ve got your (piano playing) tape in my car. I’m playing it,’” Shirley said, recalling their first conversation.
They fell in love and married a year later on November 20, 2004.
“He had such sincerity. You immediately felt this sense of being able to trust. He was so strong, so steady, so spiritual. He could make anything okay,” Shirley said.
They spent all their time together, working outside in the garden, playing with their dog Bubby Dean, and being with their family or friends or attending church events. And they loved working on projects together, singing and playing the piano together, and simply laughing together.
“He could absolutely crack me up. You knew when he was going to come up with something funny because he got that twinkle in his eye,” Shirley smiled in remembrance, loving Royce for the man he was. “I never felt so taken care of in my life.”
More than anything in his life, Royce loved reading the Bible. His passion in life was Jesus Christ.
He was baptized August 5, 1945 by Bro. Dave Crank and ordained as an elder in the mid-70s for The General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn. He served the congregation faithfully and loved, above all, serving his Savior.
Royce passed away on Dec. 22, 2008 in Henryetta, leaving behind a family who greatly loves him, including:
his wife, Shirley of the home
his daughter and son-in-law, RaJeana and Robert Dobbs of Hobbs, New Mexico
four brothers, Harold Thompson of Henryetta; Glenn Thompson of Henryetta; Gary Giles of Indianapolis, IN; and Keith Thompson of Henryetta.
one sister, Sharon Wilkinson of Okmulgee
two step-daughters, Angela Hines of Tuttle, Oklahoma and Kimberly McCollom of Edmond, Oklahoma
two step granddaughters
one step great grandson
and several nieces and nephews and other relatives.
The Knight, and a Man
By Randy Thompson
Jan. 22, 1971
(an excerpt from Uncle Royce's son's High School writing project)
“First, to be a knight, a man has to be worthy, proving that he can withstand punish and has enduring faith. This man I know is all of this and more. He has endured persecution and has been proven to be worthy above a shadow of a doubt.
“The knight has to be loyal to his kind or god the very same way this man does. A knight has to take an oath before being crowned knighthood so as to be loyal to his kind and guardian to his people. Also, he has to be meek with compassion. Again, this man, in comparison to the knight’s duty, is very much in the same manner. Instead of a king, there is Jesus, a king and a ruler in whom this man serves. He is meek with compassion and overflows, and best of all, this man is my father.”