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Remembering Wade Thompson

wade-and-amanda-thompsonPhoto: Wade with daughter Amanda at the 2007 MAS gala when he received the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal for his work to save the Park Avenue Armory. Wade F. B. Thompson, MAS’ dedicated colleague and irreplaceable board member, passed away peacefully last week, after a long battle with cancer. Wade joined the board of MAS in 1991 and immediately became active on a committee to save the Seventh Regiment Armory, now the Park Avenue Armory. “Wade was a visionary who cared deeply about his adopted city and contributed enormously to its well-being,” said MAS President Vin Cipolla. “MAS is indebted to him for his dedication to our work and his personal commitment to the Park Avenue Armory restoration. We were privileged to have Wade serve as an active Board Member for the past 16 years and will miss him greatly. Our thoughts go out to his wife Angela and his family.” A native of New Zealand, Wade was chairman, president and CEO of Thor Industries, Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of recreation vehicles and a major builder of buses. He brought his business acumen, entrepreneurial spirit and financial support to a variety of civic projects including the restoration of the landscape between the Bethesda Fountain and the boathouse in Central Park, and the sponsorship of a documentary on the National Parks of New York City for WNET. In 2000, Wade founded the Drive Against Prostate Cancer: Two 40-ft. Thor mobile medical vehicles travel coast-to-coast offering free prostate cancer screenings. The Drive has screened several thousand New York men, many from under-served areas of the city. Over 70,000 men have been screened nationally and an estimated 3,000 lives saved due to early detection. But it was the Park Avenue Armory that most captured Wade’s enthusiasm, commitment and energy. Around the time that Grand Central Terminal was embarking on its magnificent restoration, the landmark building farther up Park Avenue was headed toward near-irreparable decline. In 1993, unable to tolerate further deterioration of the historic Armory — with rooms designed by Stanford White, Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Herter Brothers — Wade urged MAS to form a committee to rescue the building and secure its future for the citizens of New York City. Soon after, his friend Elihu Rose, a real-estate executive and military historian, joined the campaign, and the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy was born. Together, they became an indispensable duo, enlisting a group of distinguished New Yorkers to join the Conservancy board; marshalling the resources for the building’s restoration; and recruiting its talented leadership, staff and, after a decade of negotiations, signed a 99-year with New York State, securing the Armory’s long-term well-being. In 2007, MAS awarded Wade Elihu the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal for their achievements. Wade’s efforts to save the Armory reflected his strong belief that landmarks contribute to a city’s character and quality of life. In 2008, he received the Restore America Hero Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for his dedication to landmark conservation. In recognition of their lifelong commitment to Central Park, Wade and Angela Thompson received the Frederick Law Olmsted award from the Central Park Conservancy this past June. A public memorial will be held on Friday, December 18, at 11 a.m. at the Park Avenue Armory in the Wade Thompson Drill Hall.