on July 22, 2014 - 4:34 PM
, updated July 22, 2014 at 6:47 PM
Dec. 20, 1936 – July 19, 2014
Donald J. Thompson, a longtime National Fuel Gas employee, died Saturday in his Elma home. He was 77.
He was born in Buffalo, graduated from South Park High School in 1954 and later attended the University of Buffalo.
Mr. Thompson served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960, spending time guarding Nazi war criminals at Spandau Prison while stationed in Berlin.
He retired in 1994 from National Fuel Gas, the only company he ever worked for, arriving as a meter reader at the age of 17 and leaving as a gas systems supervisor after 39 years.
A standout pitcher at South Park High School, he threw a no-hitter in his first start as a junior; his yearbook caption called him “another Warren Spahn.”
His lifelong love of baseball continued into the Army, where he coached the Berlin Bears, a team of the children of American GIs, to the 1960 Little League World Series.
He continued coaching after his discharge and throughout his life was a guiding force and fixture at his children’s and grandchildren’s games.
He was married for 52 years to the former Geraldine Gallagher, whom he got to know after selling her his Buick convertible before reporting for basic training.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Donald Jr. and Joel; six daughters, Kim, Carolyn Ferreira, Marie Pytlak, Rosemary Hoffman, Kathleen Sanders and Bridget Haslinger; and 14 grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 3 p.m. Friday in St. Clare Parish, 193 Elk St.