In the hallway of my apartment building, many moons ago, a woman stood with an elaborate purple hat. She was on her way to an art opening or some such but I remember being impressed with her flair. She has since become a dear friend, Janet Riehl, “Auntie Janet” to my kids. But this isn’t a Janet story, really. It’s a brief homage to her father, Erwin A. Thompson, who seven years ago at 92 became my Facebook friend (I only mention that because it’s so like him). He recently made his final journey home.
Every year, he would make my kids a little animal whittled out of wood with his pocket knife. We have a small collection of them now and they’ve even managed to make cameo appearances in a few product shots! The first one was the dog you see above—which came with “official documentation” typed by Pop himself on his vintage typewriter “I am a dog.”
Occasionally, we would visit his farm in Alton where my kids would help work the cider press and jump from the hayloft and climb trees and eat berries straight from the bushes. Last summer, he taught them how to whittle.
He is described in this article as a folk artist, philosopher, philanthropist, author, musician and Riverbend historian. We were blessed to know him as Janet’s dad.