Obituary Details

Leo Lambert Thompson

(06/09/1910 - 05/29/1970)
Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 06/04/1970

Two Killed Friday When Plane Crashes and Burns

Leo L. Thompson, 59, prominent Niobrara rancher and businessman, and Harold Nelson, 55, of Omaha, Neb., were killed at 9:40 a.m. Friday when Mr. Thompson's Piper Supercub airplane crashed and burned some 18 airmiles southwest of Lusk.

The crash was on the Louis and Arlo Bowen ranch and was witnessed by Arlo Bowen. Mr. Bowen was just preparing to hook a disc to a tractor when he noticed the plane and saw it fall toward the ground less than a half mile away. A rise obstructed his view of the actual impact. Mr. Bowen immediately drove the tractor to the crash, but on seeing there was nothing he could do, drove to his ranch home, approximately a mile away, and phoned Lusk authorities.

Cause of the crash is unknown. It was investigated by Federal Aviation Authorities, but no statement as to the cause was released.

It is known that the two men were using the plane for transportation in a rock hunting outing. They had evidently landed and picked up some Jasper which was found in the wreckage. The Bowen ranch is located on the edge of the Spanish Diggings area, famous for its early American Indian quarries.

On impact the plane broke into flames and Mr. Bowen reported a series of shot gun shell blasts. Later investigation showed that a quantity of shotgun shells had exploded during the fire. Inasmuch as Mr. Thompson often hunted coyotes from his plane, the shells had no doubt been left there. No shotgun was found in the wreckage.

The plane was coming relatively straight down at the time of impact. The wreckage was centered only 21 feet from the point of initial impact.

After local authorities reached the crash it was several hours before positive identification was made. Identification was first made by checking the serial number of the plane against Lusk airport records.

Funeral Tuesday

Funeral services for Mr. Thompson were held from the Peet Chapel in Lusk Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. The chapel could not accommodate the unusually large number of persons attending.

The Rev. Robert Boysen of the First Congregational Church of Douglas officiated.

Mrs. Gerald Bardo, organist, accompanied Harry Lyon, Dr. Richard Collins, Mrs. Robert Bramlet and Mrs. Janice Johnson as they sang "In The Garden" and Abide With Me."

Casket bearers were Lawrence Larson, Paul Percival, Max Bird, Walt Kant, Bill Magoon, Russell Thompson, Hank Montgomery and George Christian.

Honorary bearers were Andy McMaster, Joe Traphagan, Venus Kilmer, Roscoe Kilmer, Harry Brown, Bunny Chard, Tex Conners, Jake Haberman, Clarence Mangus, Dick Pfister, George Mill, Ed Boner, James E. Barrett, Harmon Templeton, Roger Percival, Albert Glasby and Ted Chambers.

During the services Andrew McMaster, president of the Stockmans National Bank and a long-time associate of Mr. Thompson, read a tribute saying: "There was a time in our culture when the greatest compliment a man could merit was to be considered "square" by his fellow men. It meant he was fair minded, honest in his business dealings, responsible and dependable, an integral cog in the gears of his community's progress, a man who valued home and family."

He stressed Mr. Thompson's business character in livestock dealing and pointed to the fact he purchased only top quality breeding stock in cattle and sheep.

Burial was in the Lusk Cemetery.

Born In Kansas

Leo Thompson was born June 9, 1910 in Seguin, Kan., to Christina and Frank H. Thompson. The family came to the Lance Creek area four years later and established a homestead. Thompson was educated in the local school, graduated from the Douglas high school and attended agricultural college in Ft. Collins, Colo.

In June 1935, he was married to Martha Carlson of Douglas at the home of the bride's parents. The couple raised a son Oscar and a daughter Marlee.

As a young man Thompson worked in the oil fields of Lance Creek and taught three years in the Lance Creek country school. In 1936 he and his brother Jiggs started in the cattle business. His ranching later included sheep as well as cattle, and his many business holdings included oil interests.

In the late 1030's the Leo and Jim Thompson families resided in the Rochelle log house, later purchasing the H. L. Bushnell ranch north of Lance Creek where Leo and Martha resided for many years. A year ago they built a new home on the banks of Lance Creek, five miles from the ranch home. In addition to his Lance Creek ranching, Thompson also operated cattle on the Hunter sisters ranch south of Lusk.

He has served on the Niobrara Board of County Commissioners, the Niobrara County Board of School Trustees, the Niobrara County Fair Board; he was a part owner and director of Rancher's Feed Service in Lusk, a charter owner of stock in the Stockmans National Bank of Lusk at its organization 17 years ago, and was still serving as vice-president.

In 1967 he was honored as a 50-year member of the Federal Land Bank, and was honored for community and youth service by the 4-H clubs of Niobrara County. He was a member of the Niobrara County Country Club, director of the South Dakota Wool Marketing Co-op, member of the Wyoming Stockgrowers and Wyoming Woolgrowers, a member of the Lusk Congregational Church and Elks Lodge.

Mr. Thompson was an experienced pilot, having owned and flown his own plane for about 30 years in connection with his ranching. As chairman of the loan committee for the Stockmans Bank he often used his plane for aerial livestock counting, and spent many flying hours hunting coyotes for the sheepmen of the area.

Survivors include his wife, Martha; son, Oscar; daughter, Mrs. Gary Scott; three grandchildren, all of the home ranch in Lance Creek; one brother, James, Lance Creek; one sister, Mrs. George Froggat (Janet) of Douglas. One brother, Jiggs, died previously, also in a plane crash.

Funeral services for Mr. Nelson were also held Tuesday in Omaha. He and Mrs. Nelson had been visiting at the Thompson ranch since May 27. Mr. Nelson and Mrs. Leo Thompson were cousins. Besides his widow, Mr. Nelson is survived by one daughter.

Images & Attachments

Leo L. Thompson
Photo courtesy of the Joshua Brackett Eagle Scout Project

Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Carlson, Margaret (02/25/1916 - 09/19/1987) View Record
Obituary Carlson, Irving (10/30/1910 - 05/18/1996) View Record
Obituary Froggatt, Janet (01/14/1912 - 05/19/1990) View Record
Obituary Scott, Marlee (03/03/1943 - 07/14/2002) View Record
Obituary Thompson, Christina (03/06/1887 - 11/02/1954) View Record
Obituary Thompson, Frank (03/03/1886 - 05/20/1927) View Record
Obituary Thompson, Martha (09/20/1913 - 06/14/2001) View Record
Obituary Thompson, James (12/18/1919 - 12/13/2007) View Record
Obituary Thompson, Harriet (01/10/1920 - 04/09/2008) View Record
Obituary Scott, Gary (08/28/1943 - 09/23/2011) View Record
Obituary Bruegger, Colten (07/28/1991 - 10/03/2012) View Record
Obituary Bruegger, Tommy (11/24/1967 - 03/10/2014) View Record