Noted DXer Vince Thompson, K5VT (SK)
Dr Vinson Thompson, K5VT, passed away on April 26 from acute myeloid leukemia, only diagnosed four weeks before his death. He was 67. An ARRL Life Member and former Chairman of the ARRL DX Advisory Committee (DXAC), Thompson was famous in DX and contesting circles and held radio licenses from more than 60 countries. One of the founding members of the VooDoo Contest Group, he traveled extensively throughout Africa, as well as the rest of the world, and has operated from many African nations while practicing in-country as a surgeon with the World Health Organization (WHO).
An Amateur Radio operator since the age of 13, Thompson was an honorary member of the Central Arizona DX Association (CADXA), where he was also the past president and 1993’s DXer of the Year; in 1995, he was named New Orleans DXer of the Year. He was also a member of the Arizona Outlaws Contest Club, as well as an FOC member. Thompson participated in multiple DXpeditions over several decades, operating in 69 countries during his travels throughout the globe, which included stops through 135 DXCC countries. Despite all his travels, he still managed to work and confirm QSOs with 341 countries on his DXCC and was on the DXCC Honor Roll, both mixed and CW.
A US Navy veteran, Thompson grew up in Oklahoma, but moved to Arizona in 1981 after attending the University of Oklahoma Medical School, serving an internship and residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and completing a two year fellowship in gynecological oncology at the University of California, Los Angeles. In Phoenix, he served as the Director of gynecological oncology at the Maricopa Medical Center until he entered private practice. Thompson was the first gynecological oncologist in the metropolitan Phoenix area.
Current DXAC Chairman and former ARRL West Gulf Division Director Coy Day, N5OK, knew Thompson when they were both high school students in Oklahoma. “We met through my uncle, Bob Kelley, W5VZU,” Day told the ARRL. “Bob was Elmer to many young guys in SW Oklahoma City who were interested in Amateur Radio. I learned to love Vince quickly. He was always smiling, upbeat about everything, never slowed down and rarely slept. In the mid 1970s, Vince and I were both living back in Oklahoma City and I helped him with technical issues. He was studying to become a doctor at the time or was serving his internship. I helped him put up an antenna or two and with his blown loading capacitors in his linear amplifier. As always, when we would get the equipment going, Vince would start filling log books right away. An unbelievably good CW operator, he would work multiple stations at a time. I would watch in amazement. When Vince was traveling the world working with WHO, he would usually take his transceiver and operate in his spare time. He would often, in the middle of a pile up, stop and ask me to call his mom and say hi for him. I loved doing that and she loved hearing that he was okay and where he was at the time. He gave many a happy ham a new country and he loved doing it.”
On the CADXA Web site, former DXAC Chairman Bob Allphin, K4UEE, remembered that he first met Thompson when Thompson was the guest speaker at the Southeastern DX Club’s (SEDXC) DXPO in the mid 1980s: “Of course, I had worked him many times from various places in Africa. He was my first DX hero! Later, we were teammates when we activated Bhutan as A52A -- it was the Number 2 ‘most needed’ at that time in 2000. Then we were at XT2DX for CQWW and we served on the DXAC together for 8 years. A gentle, unselfish, and kind man. He didn’t waste a lot of words, but when he spoke, you had better listen. I am deeply saddened that he is gone.”
Bob Epstein, K8IA, remarked that Thompson was “special...his concentration was nothing short of amazing” and on the CADXA Web site, remembered a time that Thompson came over to his station for the ARRL DX CW Contest a few years ago: “Vince arrived here about 11 PM with a huge sack of burgers and fries from In and Out. I’d never seen a sack that big, really. That sack was about 15”×12” and it was packed -- just the ‘nourishment’ most of us don’t want to deal with late at night, contesting. But our small toy poodles loved him, smelling the goodies! Instant infatuation with the big man. Fast forward a few hours. I had just come into the shack to see how we were doing and maybe spell an op. Guff Taylor, KS5A, was on 80 meters and doing fine. Vince was, seemingly, totally engrossed with 40, but also with other activities: One dog was on his lap, one was lying at his feet. He had a large plate of burgers and fries he was feeding the dogs and himself, playing with the dogs, too. Also sipping on a Coke and fiddling with his cell phone. I briefly thought, ‘Maybe he ought to quit messing with the dogs and work more stations.’ I was wrong. His rate meter said 142 QSOs in the past hour and short term rate was more than 240. I laughed, shook my head and went to do something that would help the team, like making coffee. No need to interrupt -- or spell -- Vince. He had it DOWN!”
Jeff Weisfeld remembered Thompson as a doctor, posting his tribute on the CADXA Web site: “I was on the medical side of Vince’s life. I assisted him in surgery for many years. I’ve heard about you hams and knew that your craft was a passion to him, as were the countless friendships he made along the way. As a surgeon, Vince created his own class. On a daily basis, we were all awed by his expertise and skill in tackling the hardest cases and figuring out the best way to remove the bad, keep the good and give his patient the best chance to have a healthy outcome. He was known in our medical community for this, respected and loved. Then there was the sheer joy of just being around the man. His kindness, ready smile and helpfulness that was approachable and available to all. He always insisted that I pass first through a doorway, even though I was holding the door, but that was Vince. I grew to like those automatic doors in surgery, so we could walk together. A true ‘one of a kind,’ a great man, a best friend.”
A service for Thompson was held April 30 in Phoenix. The family requests that memorial contributions be made in Thompson’s memory to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. -- Thanks to the CADXA and The Daily DX for some information.