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.
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.
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.”
Mattoon-zone locations through the years
New post office
Memorial District Hospital
Illinois Central Railroad Depot
Contact Rob Stroud at 217-238-6861.