Thor’s Wade Thompson Loses Long Cancer Battle

  Print Print

November 13, 2009 by   3 Comments


Wade F. B. Thompson

Wade F. B. Thompson

The board of directors of Thor Industries Inc. announced today (Nov. 13) that its co-founder, chairman, president and CEO, Wade F. B. Thompson, died Thursday after a 14-year battle with five cancers.

Thompson, 69, founded Thor in 1980 with Peter B. Orthwein, Thor’s current vice chairman, with the acquisition of Airstream Inc., the renowned travel trailer builder. Thompson turned Airstream around from a $12 million annual loss immediately prior to purchase to a $1 million profit in its first year. Thor went public on Jan. 11, 1984, and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 29, 1986, six years to the day after its founding.

Thompson always said that his major business legacy was not only helping build Thor into the leading manufacturer of recreation vehicles and buses. Also part of that legacy was Thor’s history of never losing money. “Even during fiscal 2009, a year of world-wide recession and a depression in the RV industry, Thor made money,” Thor’s release adds.

From his office in New York City, Thompson devoted his last decade to helping find a cure for cancer, most notably by founding the Drive Against Prostate Cancer in 2000. “The Drive,” consisting of two Airstream mobile medical vehicles, has given over 101,000 free prostate cancer screenings to men, particularly the under-served and veterans.

“About 5% of the men have an abnormality and “The Drive” has saved about 5,000 lives due to early detection,” according to Thor’s release. “He was a major contributor to Zero-The Project to End Prostate Cancer, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Cancer Research Institute and actively financed clinical trials for melanoma and colon cancer in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.”

Wade Thompson was also deeply dedicated to the arts, historic preservation and conservation and was the founder and chairman of the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy whose mission is to restore and revitalize the historic Park Avenue Armory at 66th Street in Manhattan into a world class venue for the performing and visual arts. The Armory’s 60,000-square-foot, seven-story-high Drill Hall is named in his honor.

He was a major supporter of Central Park Conservancy, the Municipal Art Society and Mystic Seaport Museum. His other interests were tennis and collecting contemporary art.

Thompson is survived by his wife of 42 years, Angela; his children, Charles A. Y. Thompson and Amanda Jane Thompson Riegel; his daughter-in-law, Olya A.Y. Thompson;, son-in-law Richard E. Riegel III;, and six grandchildren.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [Facebook] [Google] [StumbleUpon]


3 Responses to “Thor’s Wade Thompson Loses Long Cancer Battle”

  1. Sandie Kerrigan on November 13th, 2009 11:00 pm

    I was fortunate enough to work for a subdiary or Thor Industries. And being in the Human Resource part of it, we were able to not only participate, but help facilitate the prostate cancer drives in our local areas. Wade has been a great business man, a charitible man and quite obviously has shared his virtues throughout his family. My condolences go out to his wife & children. The RV industry has lost a great leader, associate, friend and charitible man.

  2. Eric Brophy on November 18th, 2009 11:42 am

    Like Sandie, I was also fortunate to have worked for one of Thor’s RV divisions in a sales capacity. My first, and only direct experience with Mr. Thompson was during my second day; my supervisor introduced me to this “Wade Thompson” person. (I had NO idea who he was) :-) After a couple minute conversation, where Mr. Thompson welcomed me aboard, as well as asked me a bit about me, I turned to one of the sales secretaries and asked “who was that guy?” I was informed that I was just speaking to the CEO and founder of Thor; hopefully I didn’t say anything too embarrassing. I enjoyed my time being part of the Thor group, and was fully impressed with Mr. Thompson’s focus and attention to not only the bottom line, but to the people within his organization. My sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

  3. Vance Eichelberger on November 18th, 2009 1:08 pm

    I just learned of Wade’s passing today. Having worked in two different THOR divisions I had the good fortune of speaking with him on occasion. He always greeted me with a “glad to see you” smile and a hearty handshake. Through all his financial success, it seemed that he remained very humble and appreciative of his blessings. I will always remember him as a down-to-earth, no-nonsense man of integrity who tried to make the world a better place to live in. My condolences go out to his family and may his soul rest in peace.