The 2020 Uvalde County Junior Livestock Show and Sale was dedicated to the memory of longtime organization member Thelma Thompson, who died on Nov. 4, 2019.
“We need to recognize somebody who spent every waking minute helping the kids,” said UCJLS President Richard Williams, highlighting Thompson’s work with 4-H and FFA members that are the focus of the show, and her support of Uvalde Youth Rodeo Club and the Uvalde Ranch Heritage Rodeo, which raises money to give scholarships to youngsters. For those reasons, and because they all considered her a friend and a mentor, Williams and fellow UCJLS Executive Board members Wanda Willard, Roy Kothmann and Melody Speer voted unanimously to bestow the honor.
Thompson was a model of honesty, integrity and fairness who worked with the show for more than 20 years. She served in multiple roles including as show president in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, director for many years beginning in 1988, and horse committee superintendent and hog committee superintendent.
She was a boots-on-the-ground presence, never too busy to help in any capacity. “She wasn’t afraid of putting pens together,” said UCJLS Vice President Willard, a longtime friend who lauded Thompson’s exceptional kindness, commitment to duty and work ethic. “She was a grand lady,” Willard said. “She knew what needed to be done, and she knew how to do it.”
Pinning down the first year of Thompson’s involvement with UCJLS is difficult, with the word forever being almost universally used to describe her length of service that extended more than 30 years.
Kenneth White, retired Uvalde County Extension Agent for Agriculture, said Thompson was working with 4-H’ers and the livestock show when he arrived in Uvalde in 1994, and Willard, longtime Extension office manager, remembered Thompson being active in the 1980s. Because of this, in 2000 Thompson was named honorary superintendent of the show.
Whatever the task, Thompson’s focus was steady, always working to help the young participants learn and excel.
“Thelma’s first love was kids. And she put kids above all else. She cared about kids and she was there to support them in any way,” White said.
White and 2020 Honorary Superintendent Danny McFadin praised Thompson as a model of fairness.
“Thelma was one that would treat everybody the same. I don’t think I ever knew anybody who was more like that than Thelma,” McFadin said. “It was black and white. She didn’t play favorites,” White said. And when it came to enforcing the rules and that standard of fairness, whether locally or on the District 4-H level, White said Thompson did not back down. “She’d stand toe to toe with anyone.”
McFadin, who worked with Thompson as a show volunteer for many years, said she was firm in enforcing the rules, but always with the goal of helping every participant.
“I always thought so much of Thelma. She always showed up to take care of those kids out there. And look what she raised. She raised one hell of a good man,” he said of Thompson’s son, Ross, who has followed in his mother’s footsteps as a selfless UCJLS volunteer.
Carol Kothmann is a longtime volunteer for the Uvalde County Junior Livestock Show and former managing editor of the Uvalde Leader-News.