Bud Thompson, 97, of Warner has done it all – and now he has his high school diploma

View Photo Gallery
  • Bud Thompson is fitted with a graduation cap from Kearsarge Regional High School during his 97th birthday party at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum on Thursday, April 12, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Bud Thompson gets a handshake after receiving his honorary high school diploma at his 97th birthday party at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • After WWII but before working at Shaker Village or starting the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, Bud Thompson was the Singing Troubadour.

  • A feather adorns Bud Thompson’s graduation cap on Thursday, April 12, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Bud Thompson is presented with a birthday cake by Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum trustee Kathy Pitman as Thompson’s wife, Nancy, looks on Thursday. Thompson received an honorary degree from Kearsarge Regional High School decades after he was a few classes short of graduating after signing up for duty in World War II. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Bud Thompson celebrates with his wife Nancy affter receiving his honorary high school diploma from Kearsarge Regional High School during his 97th birthday party on Thursday, April 12, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Bud Thompson gets a hug from his daughter-in-law Janet Lamb at his birthday celebration at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum on Thursday, April 12, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/12/2019 5:18:04 PM

Bud Thompson dropped out of high school to join the military when the world was at war in the 1940s. After the war, he traveled the country as a singing troubadour, entertaining thousands along the way as he paired his baritone voice with his Spanish guitar.

When he was done with music, he moved to Shaker Village in Canterbury and was instrumental in keeping the Shaker’s legacy and culture alive by helping build a museum. Thompson then moved to Warner where he and his wife, Nancy, created the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, celebrating a culture he had become fascinated with as a young boy.

But even with all of these lifetime accomplishments, he couldn’t forget the one thing he hadn’t seen through to the end: earning a high school diploma.

That dream was realized Thursday during Thompson’s 97th birthday party at the Indian Museum, where he was presented with an honorary diploma from Kearsarge Regional High School in front of more than 20 of his friends and family.

“I’m so humbled by all the nice things people have said. I can’t tell you how much it means,” Thompson said. “This town has been so incredible to us.”

Andy Bullock, the museum’s executive director, has known Thompson since he was a teenager and has served on the museum’s board of trustees since it opened 27 years ago.

Bullock said he was helping Thompson prepare for a media interview in November when he noticed that Thompson was making an extra effort to show proof of his accomplishments, even though they weren’t in question.

“He had this immediate need to document and prove all the things he had done because, he’d say, ‘You know, I didn’t finish high school,’ ” Bullock said.

A lightbulb lit up in Bullock’s mind, and he reached out to Kearsarge Regional High School principal Rob Bennett to see about getting an honorary diploma for Thompson, who was just a few credits short.

Bennett relayed the message to SAU 65 Superintendent Winfried Feneberg, who brought the idea to the school board, where it was met with unanimous support.

As far and Bennett and Feneberg could tell, this is the first honorary diploma the district has awarded.

“In today’s age of schools, where we talk about extended learning opportunities for kids and learning outside the classroom, I think that Mr. Thompson is a shining example of someone who learned outside the classroom and took his knowledge and built these wonderful places he’s been a part of,” Bennett said. “Certainly it’s worth a couple of credits.”

Even through all of those years without a diploma, it didn’t stop Thompson from playing a role in the education of children and adults in the area. The museum is a frequent stop for school groups.

Thompson’s fascination with Native Americans began in a second-grade classroom when he was a young boy in Connecticut. One day, about 90 years ago, his teacher introduced a visiting speaker, Grand Chief Sachem Silverstar, who delivered a message to the class that resonated with Thompson for the rest of his life.

Thompson was so moved by meeting Chief Silverstar that he wrote the chief a
letter with help from his older sister. A week after he sent the letter, Bud got one back.

“He wrote that he was proud of me and hoped someday I’d be somebody,” Thompson said. “It was a wonderful, inspirational letter.”

Several decades later, when Thompson opened the museum in Warner, several members of the Silverstar family joined him to celebrate the opening.

Thompson paused as he told this story to a reporter Thursday. Tears began to well in his eyes and he looked away. It was the only time he broke eye contact in a 15-minute interview.

“I’m touched when I think about it now,” Thompson said. “I’ve had a storybook life, and I can’t get over it. I don’t think anybody could be as happy or have had as good a life as me. I’ve had so many wonderful people come into my life, so many people who have come along and helped me do things I never could have done on my own.”

Donning a blue cap and tassel, just like the ones Kearsarge seniors will wear at graduation in June, Thompson smiled and gently held his diploma.

There’s nothing left to prove.

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2020 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy