COLUMN: Remembering Wes ‘No Problem’ Thompson

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Jim Blake and Fatima Pisqeum man the helm of this 1927 fickle Bickle that Wes Thompson so casually loaned Jim and The Chatham Voice for our introduction to the community during the 2013 Canada Day parade in Chatham. Wes’ generous heart will be missed, as he passed away last week.

I “knew” Wes Thompson the same way thousands of people across Chatham-Kent knew him.

We shared a fondness for Stella Artois; a strong commitment to United Way (he was a board president and I was a campaign co-chair with my late wife Heather); and I would bump into him often at community events.

Wes Thompson

His sister Jennifer Wilson is one of the most capable community-builders I’ve ever met.

His brother Frank was an early forerunner in the local craft beer revolution with Bayside Brewing and his sister-in-law Josette was a valuable reporter when I was editor of the Chatham Daily News.

So, I “knew” him but I didn’t really feel I was in the position to ask him a favour.

It was June of 2013 and we were well into the process of launching The Chatham Voice. It’s not every day you decide to compete with a multi-billion-dollar media empire, but we were preparing to do so and we wanted to make a splash.

Bruce, myself, and our crew decided we would announce The Voice to the community in what at the time was a very healthy Canada Day Parade.

I sucked up my courage, called Wes and said “Hey do you know where we could borrow a fire truck?”

“I’ve got a few,” he laughed, and my nervousness vanished. “Come on out to Blenheim and we’ll pick one out.”

The next day I visited his Blenheim garage, had a quick tour of his collection and then he picked one out for me.

Wes’ choice was a 1927 Bickle. As I wrote in 2013: “The Bickle is a beautiful open-air machine. It had no windshield; no automatic transmission; no turn signals; no rear-view mirror; and a starter routine that included two switches, a clutch, and two more buttons on the floor.”

“I don’t know how to drive this thing,” I told Wes. “No problem,” he said. “We’ll just take a couple of trips around town and you’ll be great. You’ve got this!”

So, we did. Thank God, he didn’t make me try to back it into the garage when we were done.

He handed me the key to the garage, showed me how to get in on parade day, and with that, we had our parade float. His only request was that he didn’t want his name mentioned for the donation.

It rained on the parade day; I stalled the truck at least a dozen times (earning silence and some good-natured booing) , re-started it (lots of cheers) and we printed our first edition the following week, complete with a typo.

In the information below the fire truck photo, we substituted the “T” in truck with an “F” – if we had left out the “R” as well, it might have been our first and last edition.

(You can read the full story of that day here)

That was Wes – the things I sweated about – asking him for the truck, being unable to drive, stalling it and almost wiping out a fleet of Shriners on mini-motorcycles in the parade – were really no reason to worry.

Thanks, Wes. “We’ve got this.”

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