Dolores “Dee” Thompson, an enduring and influential figure whose impact can found throughout Huntington, died Wednesday morning. She was 94 years old.
Over the decades of her involvement in civil rights and other causes, the diminutive and irrepressible Thompson could be found at events all around Huntington and beyond. She rarely, if ever, shrank from expressing her opinion where she thought it was needed. But much of her effort was behind the scenes, as she worked to find and provide resources to the community, especially Huntington Station.
In addition to her work in Huntington, she leaves a legacy of family committed to public service, including her daughter, Tracey Edwards, a former member of the Elwood school board, Huntington Town Council, a commissoner of the state Public Service Commission, and a leader in the NAACP, and her grandson, Walter Edwards, deputy parks commissioner in the Town of Huntington.
“I worked alongside Dee for over two decades and during that time developed a deep admiration and affection for her,” Town Councilwoman Joan Cergol said. “I am hard pressed to imagine a Huntington without Dee’s voice and constant pushing for us to do better- and – to be better. I believe the best way to honor Dee’s memory and good work is to strive for both of those things everyday. My heart and prayers are with Tracey and family who lost a monumental and memorable family member who truly left Huntington better.”
Thompson didn’t mince words. When the Huntington school board voted to close Jack Abrams school in 2010 because of fear about crime in the neighborhood, Thompson, then president of the Huntington NAACP, called the vote “irresponsible” and said the decision was meant to please “the affluent at the expense of the less affluent.” She added, “We’ll now be your migraine.”
The school eventually reopened as a STEM school.
Town Supervisor Ed Smyth said, “There are few people in this town that I can say lived up to the hype. Dee Thompson’s name preceded all the great things that she was associated with. Huntington was not just her home, Huntington was her life. Dee left an indelible mark for which we will all be forever grateful. Two of which are her daughter Tracey Edwards, former town councilwoman and now Board member of the National NAACP, and her grandson Walter, our deputy director of parks. Like his grandmother, Walter gives his all for his hometown. Dee will be greatly missed but we are proud to say through all her amazing work, her legacy will live on. Thank you, Dee! ”
She also served as vice president of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District, helped establish an economic opportunity office in Huntington, and was a key figure in the establishment of Unity Day in Huntington Station.
“Dee Thompson was a wonderful woman devoted to the public good,” Suffolk Legislator Tom Donnelly said. “She was a bright light and constant beacon of support who knew that greatness could only be achieved when a community works together. When I first came into office, she welcomed me but let me know that she had the backs of the neighborhoods I was serving and that she would be watching to make sure I had them as well. Unmatched passion, spirit, dedication and drive enabled her to connect with all people and make a difference and that will forever be her legacy. My deepest sympathies to her family and friends. She will be missed.”
Over the years, Thompson’s contributions were recognized on several levels: the town renamed a street in her honor, the Huntington Public Library honored her for helping establish the Station branch, the Heckscher Museum of Art honored Thompson and Tracey Edwards at a dinner in May, and she was one of several women recognized last year for their accomplishments for Women’s History Month.
“Dee Thompson was an icon in our Huntington Township, serving in countless local, state, and national service and leadership organizations,” Councilman Dr. Dave Bennardo said. “Dee poured her heart and soul into improving the quality of life for our residents, and her tireless work ethic and fiery advocacy are literally unmatched in the region. On a personal note, I was blessed to have Dee call me her ‘adopted son,’ and I couldn’t be more proud of this remarkable human being.”
Former Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson wrote, “Dee Thompson always said ‘Give me flowers when I’m alive, don’t wait till I’m not here anymore’. I am so proud to have been a part of giving her “flowers” when we named E. 2nd street Dolores “Dee” Thompson Way.