James S. (Jim) Thompson a retired Air Force Fighter Pilot, completed his final flight on December 23, 2021 in Santa Fe, NM.
Jim was born in San Francisco, California on June 13th, 1929. His family settled in King City, California where he graduated high school in 1947. He then attended University of California, Santa Barbara until 1950 when he enlisted in the United States Air Force. He was accepted for pilot training and graduated as a Second Lieutenant in 1952. He was sent to Korea as an
F-86 Fighter Pilot serving through the end of the war.
After Korea, Jim was assigned to Eglin AFB, Florida serving as a test pilot in various fighter aircraft. There he met and fell in love with Air Force Nurse, First Lieutenant Barbara Ellen Garvey. He persuaded her tomarry him and leave the Air Force in 1955. This began a 47 year marriage which produced three wonderful sons: Michael, Anthony and David and an adorable grandson, James Martin Thompson.
Jim continued to serve as a USAF Fighter Pilot through the Cold War and Vietnam. The Air Force moved the Thompson family to many locations in the ensuing 25 years (Spain, California, Alabama, Kansas, New York, Hawaii, Arizona, Ohio, Maryland and New Mexico). Jim was able to continue his education in the service receiving a
BS from Florida State University in 1959 and MBA from George Washington University in1966.
Jim served three tours in Vietnam amassing 450 hours of combat flying time in F-102, F-105 and
F-4 fighter aircraft. During his last tour at Danang Air Base, Vietnam he served as Commander of the "Black Widows", 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron. Flying F-4E Phantoms. His squadron performed counter air and bombing missions over North Vietnam and close air support of friendly forces in Laos and South Vietnam.
Upon returning to the United States, Jim was promoted to Colonel and assigned duties in acquisition of new fighter aircraft and test /evaluation of new weapon systems. His last Air Force assignment was as Commander, 6585th Test Group, Holloman AFB New Mexico. Under his leadership,
this 700 person organization made significant breakthroughs testing air-to-air missiles, inertial guidance systems, ejection systems and stealth technology that resulted in development of
F-117 and B-2 aircraft.
Jim retired from the Air Force in 1980 and went to work for various aerospace organizations. This included piloting QF-102 drone targets for RCA, working as a radar measurement test site manager for DynCorp, and a NASA / Northrop Grumman flight test engineer. He retired on a full time basis in 1994.
Jim and Barbara spent their retirement years in both Cloudcroft, New Mexico and Redondo Beach, California. They traveled extensively in their personal Grumman airplane and took cruise ships to exotic world destinations. Jim volunteered his time for community projects during retirement, serving on his subdivision water board in New Mexico, as a Kaiser Hospital volunteer and a Volunteer-in-Policing with the Redondo Beach Police Department.
Barbara passed away in 2002 leaving a huge hole in the family.
Jim located to Santa Fe, New Mexico to be with, ski, and dine weekly with his oldest son Mike. He lived at Quail Run taking up tennis and continued his lifelong enthusiasm for skiing and physical conditioning. For an extended time, Colorado ski trips with Air Force buddies John Lisella, Roger Arias, Roger Christianson, Franklin Lisella and Bob Lilac took place annually. Trips to the annual Oshkosh Air Show were also made with fellow pilot Ron Tarrson. Jim was a longtime member of The Order of Daedalians, a fellowship for military aviators.
Over the years, Jim remained in touch with members of his King City High School class. In 2014, Jim moved to Watsonville, CA and married his high school sweetheart Elaine Castle. Elaine unexpectedly passed away in 2019 and Jim returned to Santa Fe, NM. He enjoyed his remaining years at Kingston Santa Fe.
A memorial/tribute is scheduled for 9:00 AM Friday, February 4 at the Berardinelli Family Chapel in Santa Fe, NM. A 10:30 AM private burial for family / close friends will follow at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. Arrangements are under the direction of Berardinelli Family Funeral Services, 1399 Luisa Street, Santa Fe, NM (505 984-8600).
Jim is survived by his three sons and their spouses: Michael of Santa Fe; NM, Tony & Anna Maria of Quincy, MA; and David & Dolores of Beaverton, OR.
Friends wishing to remember Jim may forgo floral tributes in favor of donations to Covenant House (https://www.covenanthouse.org). Covenant House provides housing and supportive services to youth facing homelessness. They help young people transform their lives and put them on a path to independence.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of James S. Thompson, please visit our floral store.