Virginia community leader played major role in prison ministry program

Robert W. Thompson

Robert W. Thompson, 77, of 233 Wyndover Drive, Danville, Va. went to be with Christ on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 while a patient at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital in Richmond, Va.

He was born February 15, 1935 in Greensboro, NC to the late Josephine Miller
Thompson and the late John Walter Thompson. On May 15, 1954, he married his sweetheart Martha Sue Holden Thompson.
He worked in highway construction from the age of thirteen. Upon graduation from college in 1957, Mr. Thompson went to work with Thompson­Arthur Paving Co. (subsequently APAC­Virginia, Inc.) in Martinsville, Va.

He had earned a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from North Carolina State University. Mr. Thompson then moved to Danville in 1962, spending the remainder of his life here. After retiring with APAC, he later was affiliated with the John W. Daniel Company for several years.

Mr. Thompson was a member of Fairview United Methodist Church, a certified lay speaker with the Methodist church, taught Sunday School since 1964, and he has served as Chairman of Administrative Board, on pastoral staff, with the finance committee, as well as with other committees. Mr. Thompson also has been involved
with a number of disaster relief projects including mission trips to Honduras.

For decades, he reached out to prisoners through ministry.

He was actively involved with the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry since 1980; he taught a weekly Bible study in the Danville City Jail, and also served as President of Danville Council as well as Chairman of National Board of Trustees of Good News Jail and Prison Ministry for eleven years.

The Rev. David Abernathy, chaplain with Good News Jail & Prison Ministry, worked closely with Thompson for more than 30 years, and Abernathy said Thompson meant a great deal to him.

When Abernathy met Thompson in the early 1980s, he said Thompson made an impact on his life — especially when he became a chaplain. Abernathy said Thompson helped him understand how important everyone was.

“When inmates wondered if anybody cared — Robert Thompson cared, and he was there,” said Abernathy. “When they were discouraged, he was there. That sense of ‘this man isn’t looking down at me’ really impacted those guys. It certainly was a big part of his life to be there for people.”

Abernathy said Thompson was a man who cared about people and that was illustrated in the way he lived his life and the way he invested in people. Thompson began working with the ministry in 1980, and from that point on, Abernathy said there was not a Thursday that went by that he was not in the jail ministering and talking with inmates.

“This is somebody who was chairman of the board and talked to inmates like they were equals — that’s what touched me about him,” Abernathy said. “Over the years he had befriended those guys in jail. When they got out of jail he helped them find a job, a church and was a friend to them. They could pick up the phone and call him just like anyone else could.”

The only thing Thompson loved more than church and the prison ministry, Abernathy said, was his family. Abernathy said that Thompson’s wife, Martha Sue, was his best friend. He was a devoted father and grandfather, as well.

“As passionate as he was about many things, people were always more important,” Abernathy said. “He respected people. That’s how he lived his life, and he lived that way until his last breath.”

Mr. Thompson served as president and secretary of the International Fellowship of Christian Businessmen. He served on the board of directors of Danville’s Little Life; serving as a charter member. He was also instrumental in forming the Dan River Emmaus Community.

Mr. Thompson has also served his community in the following capacities: Board member and President of Danville YMCA, President of Danville Chamber of Commerce, Board member of Danville Industrial Development, Member of Danville Development Council, Chairman of Danville Area Development Foundation,
President of Danville United Way, Member of Executive Committee of Danville Memorial Hospital, Director of Virginia Roadbuilders, President of Virginia Asphalt Association, and Regional Director of National Asphalt Pavement Association.

Awards he received included the Westover Sertoma Club “Service to Mankind” award in 1976, and an “Outstanding Citizen” award presented by the Kiwanis Club in 1978.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three sons: Robert W. Thompson, Jr. and wife, Elizabeth of Canton, GA, Richard A. Thompson and wife, Terry of Yorktown, VA, and E. Scott Thompson and wife, Ellen of Danville; one sister: Melissa T. Harrelson of Greensboro, NC; six grandchildren: Meredith Starnes and husband, Jeremy,
Laura Thompson, Lindsey Thompson, Haley Thompson, Amy Grogan and husband, Jarrod, and Kari Collins and husband, Brandon; five great­grandchildren: Madisyn and Cole Grogan, Laeklyn Starnes, and Lane and Nolan Collins.

Mr. Thompson was preceded in death by his sister Linda Joe Koury and his brother John Walter Thompson, Jr.
Funeral services will be held 11:00 a.m. Friday, August 24, 2012 at Fairview United Methodist Church, 1013 Westover Drive, Danville, with Pastor Kathleen Monge and Rev. Linwood Cook officiating. Interment will follow at Mount View Cemetery.


Kindly leave your condolences below, in comments. Your last “God Bless You!” they will serve as a Tribute of the Fallen Solder for Christ and as a reminder of our Prison Ministry Unity …

Serge Taran,
Founder International Network of Prison Ministries
The World’s Largest Community of Prison Ministries 


Received by email:

I have read the articles on and about Robert’s involvement in the community and specifically, prison ministry. It would appear that those who worked and volunteered with him were and have been deeply touched by his humanity to those he witnessed to in the prisons. It is a deep loss for all, especially his family. From the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton please know our prayers will be with all of you.

In Christ,


Teresa Kellendonk, BA, M. Div., Associate Director of Pastoral Care

Phone 780.469-1010 ext 2249, Fax – 780-465-3003,

8421 101 Avenue, Edmonton, AB T6A 0L1, Canada