Tributes to Legion stalwart

WIDOW Betty Thompson today paid tribute to her much-loved husband Peter, describing him as a passionate and lively man.

WIDOW Betty Thompson today paid tribute to her much-loved husband Peter, describing him as a passionate and lively man.

Mr Thompson, 72, was well-known in Suffolk for his work as chairman of Ipswich's Royal British Legion, campaigning to renovate a war memorial in the town and collecting funds for the Poppy Appeal.

He was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus two months ago and died on Sunday.

Today, his wife Betty said: “We met at school and he was always getting into trouble.

“Once he ate the teacher's sandwiches and another time he undid her knitting.

“When he grew up he transformed that rebellious streak into a passionate one and put his all into everything he did.”

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Mr Thompson, of Thurleston Lane, Ipswich, worked as a plumber and joined the legion when he retired.

He was educated at the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook and many of his family members were in the Navy. He did national service and his father fought in the battle of Jutland in World War 1.

Mrs Thompson said: “His passion for the legion came from the family and he wanted to do all he could for the cause.

“It was his dying wish that he could organise the Poppy Appeal this year and so the family will run it from the house in his honour.”

Although Mr Thompson spent most of the last seven weeks of his life in Ipswich Hospital he was allowed home for Father's Day.

Mrs Thomson said: “He really was a perfectionist and loved his garden. I think it meant a lot to him to see it once more.

“But even though he was so unwell he noticed one of the tubs in the hanging baskets was upside down and made us put it the right way up. If something was worth doing it was worth doing properly.

“He didn't like to be by himself and the last three days of his life the family decided to stay by his side.

“We slept on plastic chairs until one of the nurses came and brought us comfy chairs from the day room.”

The family has thanked staff who helped Mr Thompson on Somersham Ward say all donations from the funeral service will go towards buying a special bed for the ward.

Mrs Thompson added: “The cancer was too far gone for them to operate on it or give him treatment by the time they found it.

“But in a way it was a good thing that it was so quick. He would have hated having to hang around without his energy. And now we can remember him they way he always was - lively.”

A FRIEND and former tennis partner of Mr Thompson has today told how the pensioner was still planning on improving Ipswich's war memorial just weeks before he died.

Ken Bloomfield, of Bridport Avenue, Ipswich, said: “Pete came to see me a few days before he entered hospital and said he had been to a meeting in Christchurch Mansion.

“He went to the war memorial, probably for the last time, and he said it had been cleaned and looks lovely in the sunshine but needed railings around it and a gate.

“I hope Ipswich remembers him by putting a plaque on the memorial to commemorate his hard work and add the railings and gate as was his last wish.”

Mr Bloomfield has paid tribute to all the hard work Mr Thompson did for the Royal British Legion.

He said: “When the British Legion Poppy Appeal was due he would organise his troops with trays, pots and poppies which he would deliver, collect and count the proceeds. His results were phenomenal.

“He arranged monthly social garden parties at his home, outings and carol services and his family would always provide the refreshments.

“To get the plaques made and the war memorial extended and cleared, Peter raised £120,000 by getting donations, holding garden parties, concerts and boot sales.

“He visited the memorial regularly to check on progress and was meticulous in his work. He even had a screw moved that was covering an initial.

The friends met 25 years ago when Mr Thompson went to Northgate Sports Centre to play badminton

He said: “We have played badminton, tennis or squash regularly since then. We may be in our seventies but on the squash court it was like we were 18-years-old.”