In Memory

Coach Ron Thompson (Physical Education)

Coach Ron Thompson (Physical Education)

From the Daily Republic

Ronald “Ron” DeVere Thompson

Feb. 5, 1932 — July 13, 2016

Ronald Thompson
Ronald “Ron” (or “Ronnie” to those who knew him from back when) DeVere Thompson passed away Wednesday, July 13, 2016, surrounded by his daughters, at his home in Fairfield. He was 84.

Ron was born Feb. 5, 1932, in Knox, Pennsylvania. His family moved to Garden Grove in Southern California in 1942 and then moved to Fairfield in 1944. He graduated from Armijo High School in 1950, served in the United States Navy during the Korean War and graduated from San Jose State University in 1959. In 1960, he married Deanna (Durham) Thompson, a Fairfield native.

Ron was a teacher and coach in Fairfield for 34 years, starting at Armijo High School in 1960. He moved to Fairfield High when it opened in 1964 and, as the Falcons’ first varsity basketball coach, won eight league championships before his retirement from coaching in 1992. He also served as Athletic Director for many years and announced FHS football as “the voice of Schaefer Stadium” for several decades. He retired from teaching in 1994 and enjoyed every minute of his retirement.

Ron was a man who found joy in many things, whether he was out doing something or sitting at home in his favorite chair. He was a Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Cal Bears fan and attended countless games at Kezar Stadium, Candlestick Park, AT&T Park, Memorial Stadium and Harmon Gym/Haas Pavilion, as well as visiting multiple baseball parks around the country with daughters Christy and Suzanne. He loved music and experienced lots of it live, from classic jazz at the Philharmonic concerts in his Navy days to seeing the Rolling Stones nine times to attending the San Francisco Opera with daughter Laurie. He loved to travel and was grateful to have done a lot of it – including many decades of spending summer weeks at Lake Tahoe with dear friends; many trips to Hawaii; tours of China, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand; and Mediterranean, Scandinavian, British Isles and German river cruises. Above all, he loved to talk and laugh with family and friends. His sharp wit and funny turns of phrase will be remembered (and repeated) by many.

He is survived by his three girls and best buddies, Christy Thompson (Brian Harlan) of Alameda, Suzanne Thompson of Benicia and Laurie Thompson of Fairfield; and by nieces, Shawna Serpas, Heather Ramsdell and Shannon Cobb; nephew, Jay Serpas; great-nieces, Elysia and Kaitlyn; great-nephews, Joseph, Ryan and Connor; and his beloved cat, Chloe.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 33 years, Deanna; his adored mother, Leanore Thompson; and much loved cats, Huey, Dusty and Klondike.

A celebration of his life will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 21, 2016, at the Ronald D. Thompson Gymnasium at Fairfield High School, 205 E. Atlantic Ave., Fairfield. Interment will be private at Rockville Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Best Friends Animal Society ( or The V Foundation for Cancer Research (

Arrangements are under the direction of Bryan-Braker Funeral Home, 707-425-4697. You may sign the guestbook at


Coaching legend Ron Thompson dies at 84

By Paul Farmer, The Daily Republic, July 15, 2016 

FAIRFIELD — Fairfield High boys basketball coach Ron Thompson had to figure the end of the line was getting closer.

The weariness showed in his postgame comments.

In search of his 400th career victory – 13 days after getting No. 399 – his Falcons had scored the first 11 points against visiting Stagg of Stockton before leading 39-28 at the half and 47-32 midway through the third quarter.

Then the Delta Kings roared back to tie it at 63 and later 65 and 67 before Fairfield escaped with a 71-68 victory.

“If the other 399 wins were like this one, I wouldn’t be here for No. 400,” Thompson told Daily Republic reporter Jon Gibson on Jan. 3, 1992, in the gym that would later bear the coach’s name.

After a long fight with cancer, Thompson died at approximately 6:20 p.m. on Wednesday. He was 84.

A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. at a site to be determined.

Thompson was long synonymous with Fairfield High athletics, serving as boys basketball coach for 26 years – winning eight league championships and posting a 409-262 record – as well as athletic director. He was also known as the “voice of Schaefer Stadium” by announcing football games well into his 70s.

Jay Dahl was a freshman on Thompson’s first varsity team in 1966 – “I was there because I was the tallest kid in school at 6-5,” Dahl said – and later went on to coach against him for Armijo, ironically, Thompson’s alma mater.

“When you think about basketball coaching in the city of Fairfield and the three high schools you think of (Vanden’s) Jim Boyd, (Armijo’s) Ed Hopkins and obviously Ron Thompson,” Dahl said. “One of the highlights of my basketball life is to be able to play for Ron in the first varsity game he coached and I coached against Ron in the last varsity regular season game he coached.”

Dahl and Thompson remained close for 50 years, a friendship that began when Thompson helped a grieving 14-year-old Dahl cope with the death of his father.

“He was the male influence I had around me,” Dahl said. “I told his daughters (Wednesday), he made me what I am today. He was very important to me.

“My life pretty much mirrored his. We did the driver’s training thing, the basketball thing, the (stadium) announcing thing and the athletic director thing. When I went to college I decided I wanted to be Ron Thompson. He was the male role model for me in my life.”

Thompson and his wife Deanna, who died shortly after his retirement, had three daughters – Christy, Suzanne and Laurie – but along with Dahl, it was as if he helped raise hundreds of sons.

“When you have a mutual respect coach-player wise, like that ‘Hoosier’ thing, you can get a lot farther than you’re supposed to,” said Rich Livingston, who set Fairfield’s single-season scoring record with 674 points in 1988-89. “We felt that compassion. I still called him coach to this day.

“He truly cared about people. He wanted you to be successful in life. Not all coaches are like that. That’s what was special about him.”

Before health issues wouldn’t allow it, Thompson could be seen at Fairfield games seated behind the scorer’s table surrounded by many of his former players.

“We’re like a band of brothers to this day,” Livingston said. “He fostered that. . . . we were like a family.”

Almost to a man they say his biggest strength – for someone known for at times being bullheaded – may have been his adaptability.

Starting with Dahl and later Steve Chervinskas, the Falcons used a bruising inside game to win three straight Delta League titles under Thompson in 1969, ’70 and ’71.

Led by the multi-talented Alex Lambertson, Fairfield opened things up a bit and won its first Monticello Empire League title in 1978.

“To me (Thompson) became a better coach as time went on,” said Walter Coty, a 1979 graduate who was a starting point guard in 1978. “I say that because in little Fairfield at the time back in the ’70s, he didn’t have a big choice of people, he had what he had. What made him good was fundamentals, not just in a physical sense but mentally.”

After several decent but not great seasons, the Falcons soared to arguably the best three-year run in school history, going 33-1 in the MEL and 77-13 overall from 1986-87 to 1988-89.

The biggest reason for their success? “He let us play,” said Tony Bryant, a starting point guard during that stretch who later coached the Falcons. “We were so athletic and fast. People didn’t think we had the fundamentals, but we did. I guess they overlooked athleticism for fundamentals. He allowed us to be us, he loosened up and let us flourish.”

“He allowed us to play with freedom and have fun,” said Erin Vines, who went on to win an NCAA Division II national championship with Cal State Bakersfield. “Playing at the high school level, it’s important to have fun in what you’re doing. Because we had fun, we developed lifelong relationships. Because we had fun, things tended to go better as a team.”

In 26 seasons, Thompson’s teams finished with a losing mark just six times with one .500 record to go with six 20-win campaigns. A bond with the players was a key to the success.

“He really got along well with his players,” said Nancy Moore, who started keeping score at Falcons games in 1989 and is still on the job. “They may not have understood everything, but they had a lot of respect for him. They knew he had confidence in them and they went out and played hard.”

Prior to his time at Fairfield High, Thompson, a Navy veteran, taught and coached at Armijo. During his high school days, the lanky Thompson was a standout in both basketball and baseball, often writing up stories on the games – including his own ups and downs – for the Solano Republican, forerunner of the Daily Republic.

Of one poor pitching performance for Armijo he wrote, “Ronnie Thompson started on the hill for the Indians and was wilder than a blind man shooting at ducks as he issued five walks in his four-inning tenure on the mound.”

To his final days as a coach he never stopped calling it like it was. After losing 60-42 to Modesto in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs in his final game, Thompson told Daily Republic reporter Mike Massa, “We’re pretty good at standing around. We don’t need many sleeping pills to go to sleep.”

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