Robert ‘Bob’ Thomson

Robert ‘Bob’ Thomson

GUILDERLAND — A quiet and kind man, Robert Jewett Thomson was cheerful and loving, his wife said. He worked as a civil engineer and had a passion for sailing.

“He baked in the sun from babyhood on. He just loved the water,” said his wife, Lois Thomson. He grew up near the Atlantic, on Manhattan, joining the Coast Guard right after high school, and then he built sailboats with his own hands for family outings.

He died peacefully on the evening of Sunday, July 17, 2016, at the Daughters of Sarah Senior Community Nursing Center. He was 89.

Born and raised in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan in New York City, Mr. Thomson’s father, Samuel, was an attorney and his mother, Anne, was a secretary at Columbia University.

Known to friends and family as “Bob,” Mr. Thomson went through public schools, graduating from the Bronx High School of Science in 1945. “He was smart,” said his wife.

Immediately after high school, he joined the United States Coast Guard at the end of World War II. After the war, he earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the City College of New York.

“We got together, believe it or not, playing contract bridge in New York City,” said his wife. “We were in this great big tournament and we got put together because we were bad players,” she said with a laugh.

The couple married on June 27, 1953 in Yonkers.

The marriage lasted — 63 years — as did the bridge playing. “We played all of our lives with friends from Guilderland Center and Altamont,” said Mrs. Thomson. “I still play bridge.”

When Mr. Thomson got a job with the Mobile Oil Company as a project engineer for a tank farm, the couple moved from New York to New Haven, Connecticut. He was transferred several times, ending in Albany.

Mr. Thomson then went to work for Niagara Mohawk Power Company and the couple settled on Main Street in Guilderland Center, where Mr. Thomson volunteered as a firefighter. As part of his job, he earned a master’s degree in business administration from The College of Saint Rose in Albany.

In 1963, the Thomsons moved to 104 Grand St. in Altamont, and Mr. Thomson volunteered in the village’s fire department. “We loved the village,” said Mrs. Thomson. “It was our very, very favorite place.” The Thomases lived there for 45 years and raised their children in the Grand Street home — Alan is now a professional musician, and Cheryl is a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the Guilderland YMCA.

“As a father and as a person, Bob was a very gentle man. He was quiet. Everybody liked him,” said Mrs. Thomson.

Mr. Thomson loved his work and also loved his recreation, she said. “He built beautiful, beautiful furniture,” said Mrs. Thomson, naming among his pieces “a cute cobbler’s bench coffee table” now at their daughter’s house and a round dining table made of solid cherry.

“He signed up for adult education at Guilderland High School and used their equipment in shop classes,” said Mrs. Thomson. “The instructors were glad to have him because he didn’t need any help.”

His carpentry masterpieces were his sailboats. He built two. The first was small and the Thomsons would take it on a trailer to Warners Lake in the Helderbergs or on further trips to Lake George and Martha’s Vineyard. “I learned how to fit in a sailboat,” said Mrs. Thomson.

Then he built a larger sailboat. And after that, the Thomsons bought two more in succession.

All of them were named The Larc, with a letter coming from each of the family member’s first names — Lois, Alan, Robert, and Cheryl — each boat was distinguished with its own Roman numeral.

While Mr. Thomson was expert in handling a large sailboat by himself, the couple also enjoyed taking cruises. They did lots for fun together, besides playing bridge. They loved attending concerts and the theater. They also did all different kinds of dancing together — square, round, and ballroom. “We were out two or three nights a week,” said Mrs. Thomson.

Mr. Thomson was involved in other activities, too. He sang in the Bethlehem Senior Chorus. He served for years on the Guilderland Zoning Board. And he was an active active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany.

“He was very friendly in a quiet, subdued way,” said his wife. “He was liked by all his friends. He was a wonderful father and husband.”


Robert Jewett Thomson is survived by his wife, Lois Thomas; his daughter, Cheryl Reda and her husband, Vincent, his son, Alan Thomson and his wife, Nancy Perini; and his granddaughter, Amber Rose Reda.

At his request, his remains will be used by the Anatomical Gift Program at the Albany Medical College to serve others through research.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany: 405 Washington Ave., Albany, NY, 12206.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

More Obituaries

  • Kathryn Crane Shultes

    Kathryn Crane Shultes started her career at the Pentagon and ended as a book binder. She died at The Atrium Health Center in Red Bank, New Jersey on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. She was 97.

  • Henry Brezinski

    BERNE — Henry Brezinski, a long-time, beloved superintendent of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo schools, died peacefully from natural causes on Jan 7, 2021 he was 95.

    He was born in Lebanon, New Hampshire on Nov. 3, 1925.

  • SCHOHARIE — Carl H. Burnham Sr., a Korean War veteran who worked as an equipment operator and loved animals, died Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. He was 75.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.