On May 1, 2022, our Lord and Savior called his good and faithful servant, the Reverend Ralph M. Thompson, to his home in heaven. Ralph was surrounded by his wife and children and they ushered him into heaven with Psalm 23, The Lord’s Prayer, and the song Just A Closer Walk With Thee, sung by his son.
Ralph was born on November 12, 1948 to Robert and Margaret (Oleson) Thompson of Badger, Iowa. Ralph graduated from Fort Dodge High School in Fort Dodge, Iowa while working on the family farm with his brothers. He was a proud alumnus of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and Luther Seminary, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ralph had an undergraduate degree in history and a master’s degree in theology. College was a wonderful time for Ralph as he made many friends and created lasting memories.
According to the pastoral manual, one must meet the love of one’s life in church. Ralph was hired to sing at a wedding, he laid eyes on Carol and never looked back. After a six-month courtship, Ralph married Carol (Carlson) on August 25, 1973, promising her that no matter how poor they were, he would always make sure she had a boat to play on the water. Ralph began his career at Ridgeland and Hay River Lutheran Churches in Ridgeland, Wisconsin. They wasted no time in having three perfectly imperfect children, Kristin, Jennifer and Erik. Ralph and Carol raised their children in Glenwood City, Wisconsin while he served more than 30 years at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. On the PK (Pastor’s Kids) behavior scale, they were pretty annoying, except for the occasional low grade, speeding, and too frequent use of swear words. They loved spending time with their parents, skiing at Afton Alps (Ralph sat in the cabin and wrote his sermons), boating on Lake Menomin (dad drove because he couldn’t swim), and traveling everywhere the AAA guide sent us (cockroach motels). Ralph and Carol did everything with their kids, and the result was that as a family, they not only loved each other, they loved each other.
Ralph’s time in ministry has always been focused on building strong youth programs in the church. Sundays were reserved for children’s sermons, the youth choir, Sunday school, and the Luther League. When it was Wednesday night in Glenwood City, it was Pastor Thompson who led confirmation classes and jingle bells for the youth. His greatest joy was taking our little congregation to Luther Point Bible Camp and ELCA National Youth Gatherings. Ralph believed strongly in showing the nation to the youth of his community. He completed his service calls at Luck Lutheran Church in Luck, Wisconsin.
Ralph and Carol have retired to their lakeside home in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Always a hustler, Ralph served as a retired pastor at Yellow Lake Lutheran in Danbury, Wisconsin, and fulfilled his dream of becoming a teacher, albeit a substitute, for Shell Lake Public Schools. He was delighted with his grandchildren, Tyler, Benjamin, Kennedy, Emerson, Madison and Freya. He loved cuddling them when they were young, giving them candies, beating them at cards and teaching them the art of Scandinavian cuisine.
Ralph is survived by his beloved wife Carol and children Kristin (Robert) Brandt and children Ben, Ty and Kennedy of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Jennifer (Greg) Hinker and daughters Emerson and Madison of Delano, Minnesota, and Erik (Laura) Thompson and his daughter Freya of Minnetonka, Minnesota. His brother Ron (Jane) Thompson of Mt. Airy, Maryland, sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews whom he adored. He is predeceased by his parents, Robert and Margaret, and his brother Mark.
To know Ralph was to know an all-encompassing love. He has never met anyone he hasn’t opened an account with or added to his contact list. Her greatest gift was her ability to love beyond measure and to teach her children the importance of faith and family. He was the heart of our family and we miss him dearly.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Crescent Tide of St. Paul, Minnesota. Ralph’s wake will be held Friday, May 13 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Shell Lake High School. Funeral service and celebration of life will be held Saturday, May 14 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Spooner, Wisconsin at 1:00 p.m. The service can be streamed live at Trinityspooner.org. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Luther Point Bible Camp in Grantsburg, Wisconsin. https://lutherpoint.org/get-involved.