OBITUARY: Life dedicated to saving others

BRAVE: Port Stephens Marine Rescue founder John Thompson.  Picture: Stacey Simms
BRAVE: Port Stephens Marine Rescue founder John Thompson. Picture: Stacey Simms


Born: March 21, 1932.

Died: October 28, 2012.

Funeral: Salamander Bay Uniting Church, November 2, 2012.

John Thompson was a passionate and dedicated man who committed his life to saving others.

Mr Thompson, the founder of Port Stephens Marine Rescue, died on October 28 after a five-year battle with cancer. 

He was 80.

This year, the rescue unit at Port Stephens is celebrating its 30th year. 

It began in 1982 with 21 members after Mr Thompson decided to call the inaugural meeting.

Today it is a fully accredited search and rescue co-ordination centre operating around the clock with 200 dedicated volunteers.

Over the years, the centre has taken more than 500,000 radio calls, assisted nearly 4000 vessels and rescued 8300 people. 

All of it started because of John Thompson.

Mr Thompson was born in South Grafton in 1932, the first child of Lenard John and Thelma Thompson. 

He had three younger sisters – Velma, Marie and Marline. 

At the age of seven, his father gained employment as a railway maintenance worker,  so the family moved to the outback town of Roto.

The town had a population of 22 at the time, which included the six members of the Thompson family.

In 1944 the family moved again to Western Sydney where Mr Thompson, then aged 12, joined the Naval Cadets and North Curl Curl Surf Life Saving Club.

His passion and dedication for others was evident even as a young child.

He would travel from Western Sydney to Curl Curl and camp in a tent so that he was ready and available for duty at all times. 

Bob Young, the unit commander of Marine Rescue Port Stephens, paid tribute to a man who he remembers as an absolute go-getter.

‘‘John was an achiever, a doer and a man who got things done,’’ Mr  Young said.

‘‘He was a man that was only too willing to devote his life to the people of NSW as a volunteer.’’

But Mr Thompson wasn’t always the rescuer, at one point he was the one who needed to be rescued.

During a fishing trip with his young son Greg, he found himself needing help.

It was then that he became aware of, and involved with, the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol.

He joined the Broken Bay Division in 1968.

Mr Thompson owned a medium-sized engineering business at Brookvale, employing about 52 people and building aluminium and steel vessels up to 60-feet long. 

He sold his business in 1977 and he and  wife Monica bought a caravan in which they travelled around Australia visiting the local coastal patrol and air-sea rescue bases.

It was in 1982 that Mr Thompson decided Port Stephens needed a division of the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol.

‘‘John placed an advertisement in the local paper calling an inaugural meeting at the Port Stephens Game Fish club,’’ Mr Young said.

It was 30 years ago, on November 2, that the inaugural meeting was held and 21 members were signed up.

‘‘This place was his dream and through him Marine Rescue Port Stephens has become, arguably, the most highly trained, highly regarded and highly respected Marine Rescue organisation within Australia,’’ he said.

Mr Thompson was awarded a Coastal Patrol Citation for bravery, the Centenary Medal, the Emergency Services Medal and the National Medal.

He is survived by his wife Monica, five children, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.