Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Early Bird, Part 14

In 1922, DeLloyd Thompson came home for good and flew his last exhibition at the fairgrounds in Arden. One of those to watch the dashing pilot perform his “undertaker’s roll” was a teenage tennis sensation by the name of Naomi Parkinson. The daughter of a prominent local attorney, Naomi had graduated from the Washington Female Seminary and had enrolled at Carnegie Tech.

At 19, Naomi had already racked up a number of amateur tennis championships and had a promising academic future ahead of her, but all that would be put aside when she fell for Dutch. He was 33, and their elopement was scandalous. Their son, Robert, was born in September 1923.

Thompson purchased an interest in a coal mine, and later took on building projects as a contractor. He was involved in the construction of the Sunset Beach pool near Claysville, which opened in 1926. According to the late Robert Thompson’s widow, Margaret, Dutch lost a good bit of money on construction equipment he purchased. “From what I know, he was never much of a businessman,” she said.

By the late 1920s, Thompson’s wealth was all but gone. He and Naomi were living with his mother, Sarah, in their home at 140 Shirls Avenue, and money problems were beginning to eat away at their relationship. Sarah died just before Christmas 1928. The marriage would dissolve a few years later.

Naomi would pick up single life where she left off. By 1933, she was ranked 19th in the nation among female tennis players. She returned to college in 1937 and made the Carnegie Tech tennis team – the only woman on the squad – and captained the team in 1939. She earned two bachelor’s degrees from Tech, one in voice and one in music supervision.
She began teaching music, but when the war began, she joined the Red Cross and served for two years in India, Burma and China.
After the war, she continued to collect trophies for both tennis and golf. She remarried, to Robert Kenward, and died in 1995 at the age of 92. Her life is a story in itself, perhaps for another day. This is, after all, the story of Dutch Thompson, and although his daredevil days were done, he would have one more chance to cheat Death.


Anonymous said...

I wonder who raised the little boy Robert, born in 1923, while his mother was enjoying her tennis star status and serving in the Red Cross overseas.

Park Burroughs said...

By the time Naomi returned to college, Bob Thompson was in high school. When Naomi was in the Red Cross, her son was in the Army with the 81st Airborne. He would later be a prisoner of war.