Watch Now: The Late Mattoon Historian Honored For His Commitment | Story

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Local historian Carolyn Cloyd discusses historian and preservation consultant Steve Thompson’s posthumous nomination for the Book of Golden Deeds Community Service Award from the Mattoon Exchange Club. His widow, Kathy Thompson, right, accepted the award at the club’s reception on October 6, 2021.






MATTOON – Steve Thompson of Mattoon has dedicated much of his life to preserving history across the United States as a paid consultant and in his community as a volunteer.

“A study of history is really important for society because we can’t know exactly who we are until we know where we’re from,” the historian and preservation consultant explained in an interview. in 2018 for WEIU.

The Mattoon Exchange Club honored Thompson’s dedication to preservation by posthumously presenting him with his annual Book of Golden Deeds award for community service. Thompson, 69, died on July 22 due to medical issues. His widow, Kathy Thompson, accepted the honor at a reception Wednesday night at the Mattoon Golf & Country Club.






Steve Thompson’s widow, Kathy Thompson, holds the Golden Book of Deeds honor that the Mattoon Exchange Club presented posthumously to the historian and preservation consultant Wednesday night.


ROB STROUD, GAZETTE & TIMES-COURIER JOURNAL


Connie Jones, who helps organize the Book of Golden Deeds program, said it was the first time the Mattoon club had presented the award posthumously. She said the selection committee was impressed with Thompson’s work in all award categories, including Americanism, community service and youth programs.

Local historian Carolyn Cloyd, who named Thompson, said he often told people he first learned the value of public service as a Boy Scout, earning Eagle Scout status. She said that after graduating from Southern Illinois University, her desire to serve led her to join the U.S. Army in 1975 and become a member of the 101st Airborne Division. He served two enlistments and received an honorable discharge as a Master Sgt.

“He carried that military look and that military precision with him for the rest of his life,” Cloyd said. For example, she said Thompson made sure to meet with the Salvation Army summer camp youth in 2019 ahead of time before leading them to archaeological digs in Mattoon’s oldest park, Allison. -Cunningham Park. Thompson exclaimed, “I have to come in and brief these kids.”

After his military service, Thompson returned to school and eventually obtained a Masters of Historical Administration at Eastern Illinois University in 1989. He then worked in preservation for other organizations and as a consultant through of its Intrepid Consulting Services, Inc.

Cloyd said Thompson’s work included conducting an archaeological field survey of the Little Big Horn battlefield and assisting with the relocation and rehabilitation of the WWII German U-505 submarine. World at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

“Steve’s job was to preserve American history, to preserve all of history, and that’s important to all of us,” Cloyd said.






Steve Thompson, Historic District

Historian and preservation consultant Steve Thompson stands on the bricks of Wabash Avenue on February 14, 2017, as he talks about the Mattoon neighborhood he would soon see listed as the Lumpkin Heights and Elm Ridge Historic District Subdivision on the National Register of Historic Places.


JG-TC FILE PHOTO


After semi-retirement 15 years ago, Thompson began participating in various preservation projects in his community. He also joined the Coles County Historic Preservation Advisory Council.

Thompson was the driving force behind the Mattoon Civil War Memorial Ellipse / Camp Grant municipal park project. The Ellipse overlooks the Civil War-era Mattoon Camp Grant site, which served as the Union staging camp for the Illinois Infantry Regiments from 1861 to 1865. In May 1861, Captain US Grant, then an Illinois recruiting and training officer, performed some of his early Civil War duties at this site.

In addition, Thompson helped secure the Historic District of Lumpkin Heights and Elm Ridge Subdivision; the Burgess-Osborne Memorial Auditorium; Richard Roytek House; and the Camp Shiloh CCC site, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thompson also helped create the current Coles County Historical Society Women’s Suffrage Exhibit at the Mattoon Train Depot. He was also instrumental in efforts to renovate the WWII tank at Peterson Park as a memorial and place a historical marker in Mattoon on the Confederate saboteurs who operated there during the Civil War.

“Steve was the right man. Steve was so smart, he was so knowledgeable, he was so methodical in his job,” Cloyd said. “He was born and raised here. He believed in this community. He wanted to make it a better community.”






Steve Thompson, History of the Civil War

Local historian Steve Thompson addresses the Coles County Historical Society at the organization’s annual meeting on January 17, 2016. Thompson spoke about Mattoon’s connection to a Confederate Special Operation during the Civil War. He helped ensure that a marker on this story was placed at Wolf Pocket Park in Mattoon.


DAVE FOPAY, JOURNAL GAZETTE & TIMES-COURIER


Contact Rob Stroud at 217-238-6861.


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