Dolores “Dee” Thompson was a champion for a broad cross-section of Huntington Town’s residents, active in the town’s civic life for many decades, one who advocated for young people, and for the health and economic development for everyone in her community.
The community praised Thompson over the years, including by naming an intersection for her in 2021.
Thompson died Wednesday, from congestive heart failure, at the Dix Hills home she lived in with her daughter. She was 94, said her daughter, Tracey A. Edwards, the Long Island regional director of the NAACP.
“It was all about the community for her,” Edwards said. “Community in the broad sense. I think about all the things she was part of: the Boys & Girls Club, and that’s the youth. She was chair of the Dolan Family Health Center. She was concerned about health care. She was on the Huntington Hospital board. She was co-chair of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District, so that was the economic piece.”
Edwards added her mother was a former president of the Huntington branch of the NAACP for several years, and a member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Huntington, for more than 75 years. She also founded the Huntington Station Enrichment Center in 1997.
Concerned about the needs of youth in the mid-'50s, Thompson formed a group called the Silhouettes, which took children to gyms, parks and zoos.
“So my mother cared about every aspect of people’s lives in the community. ... It spoke to who she was as a person and how she cared about the total person and the total community,” Edwards said. “I call her my warrior queen.”
Accolades for Thompson poured in.
Expressing gratitude for the sympathy extended by many, Edwards pointed to a comment on her Facebook page from former Rep. Steve Israel, who said Thompson “inspired me. She intimidated me. ... She compelled us all to do better for our town. She lifted us to higher ground. And for that, alone, her legacy is eternal.”
Hazel N. Dukes, president of the NAACP’s New York State Conference, said of Thompson in an interview, “My relationship with Dee goes back over three decades working in the NAACP on Long Island.” Dukes said the Huntington branch that Thompson once headed “was one of the most forceful branches in the state. She took on issues of housing and education. She was a real advocate for the communities in the Huntington and Huntington Station area.”
Frank Petrone, who was Huntington Town supervisor for 24 years until 2018, said by phone from Florida that Thompson “was truly an activist for everyone in the town. She always took on the case of the forgotten and the underserved. She was involved in just about every aspect of the social and economic development of the town.”
Petrone added, “She taught me an awful lot about people and what’s important in life.”
Ed Smyth, the current Huntington Town supervisor, said in a statement, in part: “There are few people in this town that I can say lived up to the hype. Dee Thompson’s name preceded all the great things that she was associated with. Huntington was not just her home, Huntington was her life.Dee left an indelible mark for which we will all be forever grateful.”
Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director of Huntington Hospital, said in an interview that Thompson was one of the founding members of the Community Advisory Board for the Dolan Family Health Center, which she chaired for about 15 years. The center is part of the hospital. She was also on the hospital’s board of trustees. “She did both of those for 26-27 years.”
Fitterman continued, “She really served as an advocate for the community in helping us close some of the gaps in the social determinants of health.”
Born Dolores Jarvis in Brooklyn, her family moved to Long Island, first to Woodbury, when she was a teenager. The family then moved to Huntington, where she graduated from Huntington High School in 1948. She had a 30-year career with AT&T, becoming one of the first African American managers in operator services, her daughter said. She retired in 1984. And her community involvement intensified.
Thompson told Newsday in 2008 about her motivation.
“I go to the jails and I see most of the people are Hispanic and African American,” she said. “They can build more jails, but that doesn’t get to the real problem and the underserved people and young people. ... You’ve got to make noise, and it’s got to be for the right reason.”
Besides her daughter, Thompson’s survivors include a son, Kevin Thompson of Huntington; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Her eldest son, Royal Thompson III, died in 1975.
A wake is scheduled for Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station. A funeral is scheduled for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the funeral home; burial is to follow at Pinelawn Memorial Park cemetery.