Reginald (Reggie) Thompson passed away on May 3, 2013 at the age of 59. A Real Change vendor for five years, Reggie was known for his generosity, sense of optimism and positive attitude.
Reggie was from Virginia and attended Chowan University in Murfreesboro, N.C., where he studied social work. But his second love was music: He was particularly a fan of soul music, but he also liked groups like Pink Floyd. He played guitar in a band that toured the East Coast, often playing military bases. On at least one occasion, they played at the Apollo Ballroom in New York City.
While working as a telemarketer, Reggie read a book about fishing in Alaska and immediately knew what he wanted to do with his life. He and a buddy drove out to Anchorage; Reggie found a job on a fishing boat the day after he arrived. He worked in Alaska for a number of years, coming down to live in Seattle in the winter. He loved being on the ocean. He loved the adventure and the remote villages. Though he made good money, it was hard work: seven days and 70 or 80 hours each week.
Joey Pollit, a Real Change vendor who roomed with Reggie during some of that period, remembered how generous Reggie was, especially when he was just back from Alaska with money in his pocket, and how Reggie would always stand up for his friends when they got in trouble. Joey said Reggie was a great cook and would throw together fantastic dishes: “turkey or beans or whatever.”
Reggie knew that being a fisherman in Alaska was a dangerous occupation. He wasn’t surprised when he injured his wrist and had to stop. He met this setback with his usual positive attitude. But the fishing, he found, had done more than injure his wrist: a back injury kept him from standing more than a few hours at a time.
Stuck in Seattle with little money, he was determined to make the best of things. He sold Real Change and did day labor and catering. He saw selling Real Change as a business: building up a customer base, making sure that they knew what was inside each issue and finding the best location for selling. His customers were loyal and fond of him; he would steer them to the best articles and give them a review of each issue.
Reggie made friends with his customers wherever he sold Real Change. One worker at Specialty’s Café said when she was annoyed by a negative interaction with a customer, Reggie would help calm her down — as he put it, “You just have to work your way around people like that.” He was always willing to help.
In the midst of all this, Reggie was determined to find an outlet for his creativity. The organization Path with Art played a major role in his life; he took classes in drawing, painting, drumming, photography and creative writing. His poetry, paintings and photography were featured in some Path exhibits.
Adam Doody at Path said that writing was Reggie’s real love: He was particularly excited when his poetry was published. Toward the end of his life, he spoke of writing a book about his adventures in Alaska, a subject that came up whenever he took a ferry across the Sound. He was also returning to playing the guitar; someone had given him one as a gift, and he helped with a musical performance at the Henry Art Gallery.
On the night before he died, Reggie was at a Path exhibit, where one of his acrylic still lifes was hung; he was as positive and lively as ever. The painting now hangs in the Real Change office.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Longtime Pioneer Square artist Sam Day painted this portrait of Thompson.