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Hall of Famer Tom Thomson dies; services Saturday

January 21, 2012

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Walter D. “Tom” Thomson, 73, a member of the Living Hall of Fame and president of the Grand Circuit, who perhaps most famously served as director of racing for the Little Brown Jug, died Friday, Jan. 20.
Mr. Thomson, the son of one of the Jug’s founders, Henry Clay “Hank” Thomson, has in recent years brought the Jug into the 21st Century, modernizing the pacing classic without it losing its quaint county fair charm and rich tradition.
From his position as director of racing, a title he held since 1973, Mr. Thomson oversaw all that makes the Jug one of the most recognized sporting events in the world. He was instrumental in bringing regional and national television coverage to the Jug, organizing an extensive simulcasting operation and making continual upgrades to the Delaware racing plant and equipment.
Mr. Thomson served multiple terms on the Delaware (Ohio) County Fair Board and was also a fixture in the position of president and treasurer of the Little Brown Jug Society--which oversees all aspects of the Little Brown Jug, the middle leg of the Pacing Triple Crown for 3-year-old Standardbreds.
The Delaware County, Ohio, native resolutely made sure the race lost none of its history and tradition.
When not overseeing the Jug or when running the family-owned Delaware Gazette newspaper--which the family sold in 2004--Mr. Thomson served as an ambassador for the sport as president of the Grand Circuit, a position he held for 19 years.
Mr. Thomson was also a member of the board of trustees of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted in 2005, and was also a member of the Ohio Harness Racing Hall of Fame, inducted in 2004.
"We talked about it (the Little Brown Jug) at the dinner table every night," Mr. Thomson recalled in a press release announcing his Ohio Hall of Fame induction. "And as soon as I could drive, I was the errand boy at the fairgrounds. When I graduated from college, I came back and worked on the Jug. In 1972 my mother had open heart surgery and my dad turned over the reins to me.
"I do it because it is so much fun, and I really enjoy it," Mr. Thomson continued. "It's so important to the community and the horsemen. I've loved it and worked hard at it, and that's always been great fun.”
Mr. Thomson is survived by his wife, Sherry; daughters, Chriss (Bill) Cawley and Cheryl (Tom) Wright; sons, H. C. "Chip" III (Margaret) and Thomas Thurman (Lisa). He was preceded in death by his first wife, Helen, who died in 2001.
The fam­ily will receive friends from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan, 28, at Asbury United Methodist Church in Delaware. Memo­r­ial ser­vices will fol­low at 2 p.m. Pri­vate bur­ial will be held at Oak Grove Cemetery.
Memo­r­ial con­tri­bu­tions may be made to The Delaware County Fair, 236 Penn­syl­va­nia Ave., Delaware, Ohio 43015, or The Har­ness Rac­ing Hall of Fame and Museum, 240 Main St., Goshen, N.Y. 10924.
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