John Russell "Russ" Thompson

Russ and Mary Jo Thompson celebrated their 45th Anniversary in 1986
Russ and Mary Jo Thompson celebrated their 45th Anniversary in 1986

Gravestone photos courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project
Gravestone photos courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project

(May 10, 1912 - February 12, 2001)

The Lusk Herald
February 22, 2001

John Russell Thompson

John Russell Thompson, age 88, of Lusk, passed away on Monday, February 12, 2001 in Scottsbluff, Neb. He was born in Edgar, Neb., on May 10, 1912, to John Charles and Elsie Hull Thompson. The family later moved to Wood Lake, Neb., where they were involved in ranching. Following his father's illness, the family moved to Whitney, Neb., where he attended high school, later moving to Chadron, and graduating from Chadron High School.

Russ played his first football game in Wood Lake, Neb. Prior to this game, Russ had never practiced the game or participated in a football game. He played at Chadron High School and Chadron State College for one year. He was recruited by Link Lyman to play for the University of Nebraska under Dana X Bible, lettering three years. In 1935, George S. Hallas, Chicago Bears owner and coach, offered him a contract for $90 per game and he became a Chicago Bear. He played for the Chicago Bears for four years before playing his last year in the professional ranks with the Philadelphia Eagles. One winter he played semi-pro basketball.

He married Mary Jo Norman at Whitney, Neb., on July 30, 1941. Russ and Mary Jo moved to Keeline, Wyo., in February of 1944 and then purchased the Len Christian place in October of 1944. They first raised sheep and later cattle.

Along with George Christian and Bunny Chard, he built a covered wagon and participated in the first Legend of Rawhide and was a part of the production until 1966. Russ served as a Niobrara County Commissioner from 1951 until 1955. In 1964, the Jim Christian Ranch was added to the ranch holdings. In 1968 he helped start the Niobrara Conservation District. He was awarded the Wyoming Conservation Award in 1973. He served in the Wyoming Legislator from 1981until 1982.

Russ was a member of the Congregational Church. He served as a Moderator during which time they made an addition to the church, added Blish Hall, built the Parsonage and purchased the Organ. He was also a member of the Elks, Masons, Sigma Nu Fraternity, Republican Party and the 4-H Program. Russ's primary interests in life were ranching and family.

He was preceded in death by his parents, and his only sister Lois Martin.

Russ is survived by his wife, Mary Jo, his children; Cody of Lusk, Leif and his wife Brenda of Philo, Ill., Tom and his wife Dixie of Whitney, Neb., Roxanne and her husband Roy Sharp of the family ranch, and Link and his wife Debbie of Gordon, Neb. Also surviving are twelve grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

A funeral service was held Monday, 2 p.m. at the Niobrara County Fairgrounds Auditorium in Lusk with Reverend Don Chanslor officiating. Interment followed in the Lusk Cemetery.

A Memorial has been established to the Congregational Church Scholarship Fund in Lusk.

Cicmanec-Pier Funeral Home in Lusk is in charge of the funeral arrangements.

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