Jack Thompson, longtime Port of Grays Harbor Commissioner, died overnight in Santiago, Chile, Port officials said Thursday morning. He was there attending the annual convention of the American Association of Port Authorities.
Thompson was with his wife Trish and they had been out for a walk on Sunday when he fell and hit his head. He was being cared for in a private clinic and people who were part of the convention were helping facilitate things the past couple of days. Port officials said the U.S. Embassy and Department of Commerce had also been helpful.
His sons Jack and Jerry were there when their father died, said Gary Nelson, executive director of the Port of Grays Harbor.
Nelson is going to Chile this weekend and Kayla Dunlap, the Port’s public affairs director, was going Friday, Nelson said. Both had already been scheduled to attend the convention and now they will also be assisting Mrs. Thompson.
Thompson was a businessman who supplied equipment for the logging industry. He joined the Port Commission in 1994 and was serving his fifth 6-year term representing District 2. He was president of the three-person board and is the third longest serving commissioner in the Port’s 107-year history, according to Dunlap. He was in his 80s.
“He was an incredible force, not just for our port, but in the state and internationally,” said Nelson.
One of his strengths on the commission was to provide a grounding force to the staff so that the contribution local businesses had made to building and sustaining the port didn’t get taken for granted, said Nelson. “He knew the heart and soul of the people who worked on the docks and in the mills. He really understood the community. He had a sense of balance, knowing we should recruit new business, but he was a champion of existing customers and tenants and didn’t want their contribution overlooked. He did a good job of steering us.”
Former Port commissioner Chuck Caldwell, who retired earlier this year, spent more than 15 years alongside Thompson on the commission.
“What can you say when you lose a friend, and Grays Harbor lost a tremendous person who supported the Harbor, not just as a Port commissioner, but Grays Harbor was his home and his life and we have all benefited from it so much,” said Caldwell. “It’s just mind-boggling. I don’t think people realize what they have lost. He was a very special person for the Harbor.”
Quigg Bros., Inc. president John Quigg said he’s known Thompson his entire adult life. “He had an industrial supply business and we were buying powder from him back in the early 70s. And I’m sure my family knew him before then.”
Quigg said Thompson’s ability to look beyond the status quo and explore new business models played a big role in keeping the Port productive during bad economic times.
“He was always positive with the Port, always looking at ways to grow the Port. He clearly wanted to look at different options, and where the Port had a niche he would want to expand on that,” said Quigg. “The Port business model changed over the years and he was good at adapting to realities. When the timber export went away for the most part the Port had to reinvent itself and he was a big part of those changes.”
A statement released by the Port Thursday listed among Thompson’s accomplishments expanding the Port’s portfolio of cargoes to include dry bulk, liquid bulk, RORO (roll on-roll off vehicle imports by ship) in addition to the traditional wood-based commodities such as logs, lumber, pulp and paper. Thompson also was called an advocate for economic development who worked with other leaders to ensure the assets of the Satsop Business Park provided economic opportunities for the citizens of Grays Harbor.
Grays Harbor County Commissioner Vickie Raines took to Facebook Thursday to express her thoughts on Thompson’s passing.
“He was a wonderful Port Commissioner and a more wonderful man,” she wrote. “I became friends with Jack and really got to know him during my time as mayor for the City of Cosmopolis. He had a smile that could light up the room, and he was one of the most encouraging and gracious men I’ve ever known.”
Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) offered the following statement Thursday:
“I’m saddened to learn of Jack Thompson’s passing. My family and I send our prayers and deepest condolences to Trish and all of Jack’s family members. In more than three decades of public service, Jack fought to bring great jobs here. He built relationships with people and businesses around the world that led to more cargo and businesses using the Port. I will always be grateful for his partnership in the efforts to create more economic opportunities for folks in Grays Harbor County.”
The Port statement said in the coming weeks it will begin developing procedures and a schedule for filling the vacant position. Per state law, Commissioners Stan Pinnick and Phil Papac will appoint a new commissioner from District 2 within 90 days of the vacancy.