Alleen Thompson

September 18, 1919November 13, 2020

Miss Alleen Thompson 1919 – 2020

Having recently celebrating her 101st birthday, it is with heavy hearts yet joyful spirits that we say goodbye to our dear friend, Miss Alleen Thompson. Alleen was born in Waterville, Maine on September 18, 1919 to Margaret Arnold Thompson of Waterville, Maine and Mark R. Thompson of Brookfield, New York. An amazing woman, she lived an extraordinary life. Her love of books began early as she spent a good deal of time at the Waterville Public Library in her youth. She was a graduate of Waterville High School and the class of 1940 at Colby College, Waterville, Maine, with a Major in Geology. She lived at home rather than on campus and became a member of the Alpha Chapter of the Sigma Kappa Sorority. She went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Library Science at Simmons College, Boston, MA. Alleen was accomplished in her work yet humble about her life experiences. She was a pioneer of her times when, while working at Penn State’s Engineering Library in 1941, the Navy organized its women’s auxiliary known as WAVES. She most enthusiastically joined the third class of WAVES and was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Miami, Florida as a communications officer. As a WAVE ensign during World War II she was re-assigned to Kaneohe Naval Air Station in Hawaii in 1943. It was full on wartime in Hawaii and the work was demanding; decoding messages by the thousands, midnight watches, and tending the radios, teletypes, and switchboards. Alleen left the Navy after the war in 1945 as a full Lieutenant. Because Alleen was such a modest person about her accomplishments, some of her prestigious jobs may never be known to all. We do know, however, that for six years she held a top library post at the State Department of Public Health in Berkeley, California. Around 1955, General Electric came calling as they were building the Dresden (Illinois) Power Station, to include a nuclear reactor. Her job would be to build a brand-new library on atomic science from the ground up. The library was over 2,000 square feet and contained thousands of highly technical books, magazines, and publications, many of which were classified. Still a WAVE Reserve, Alleen continued her communications job as head of General Electric Company’s special library at the Atomic Power Equipment Department in San Jose, CA. She was one of only a handful of women who rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, Reserve, a post only two slots below Captain’s rank. In 1965 she became the first West Coast woman elected as President of the Special Libraries Association. As Mrs. Elizabeth B. Roth (Head Librarian of the Standard Oil of CA Library) stated in her announcement, “In Alleen are combined the high standards of a New England education and the rough experience of mastering several western libraries. You can’t show her a library problem that can’t be identified, attacked, and licked. Eastern skeptic and Western pragmatist, she admires wit and aggressiveness, especially in special librarians.” One of the highlights of her presidency was being invited to the White House and introduced as one of the “1200 Most Influential Persons in the United States” for her time. In 1970, she was tasked with setting up a library in Korea. In 1982, Alleen was named to the Special Libraries Association’s Hall of Fame. She travelled extensively for work and pleasure visiting Art Museums throughout Europe, Japan, and India to name a few. Alleen visited well over forty countries during her remarkable life journey. Alleen returned to her Waterville, Maine roots in 1998 making the solo cross-country trip by car with her belongings and two cats. Being back in Waterville, Alleen had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and with what the city had to offer. That had to include all things Colby! She enjoyed lectures, the Great Books programs, the plethora of exhibitions at the Colby Museum of Arts, attending all of Professor Brancaccio’s film classes offered through the Goldfarb Center, and the campy fun at the Broadway Musical Reviews, which she often introduced to friends. As a proud alumna, Alleen followed every accomplishment, accolade, and innovation of the college with great interest. She enjoyed shows and events at the Waterville Opera House, and was a member of the Waterville Historical Society, and the Central Maine Garden Club. Alleen supported the many animals at Waterville Humane Society even donating “Poppy’s Room” out of her love of cats. She was an active supporter of her favorite charities, many including causes for all animals and the environment as well as the Waterville branch of the Salvation Army. Always the lifelong learner, and an avid reader, Alleen was up to date and curious about the world around her. She had a standing Portland Press Herald, New York Times, and Boston Globe newspaper order at the local convenience store. Still independent and driving on her own, they knew she would be in to pick them up without fail. Alleen was a traditionalist by nature, preferring to be addressed as Miss Thompson unless she knew you on a more personal basis. She loved wearing stylish skirts and dresses rather than slacks complimented by the perfect hairstyle and handbag. She enjoyed eating out and did not mind travelling for good meals, most notably with her group of friends who made their yearly outing to The Lost Kitchen. She was a fast friend always interested in what others were doing in their day to day lives. Alleen will be missed for her quick wit, her forthright opinions, inquisitive nature, and companionship. If you were a friend or acquaintance, know that you were truly cherished. Out of respect for her wishes, there will be no services. We invite you to give a private toast to her incredible life well lived.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Alleen’s name to Colby College; Division of College Advancement; 173 Main Street; Suite 201; Waterville, ME 04901 or to the Waterville Humane Society; 100 Webb Road; Waterville, ME 04901. Donations to Colby College will be directed to the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts under construction on the Mayflower Hill campus. Many thanks for the love and care that the staff at Northern Lights Continuing Care Lakewood in Waterville, Maine extended to our dear friend. Alleen, we miss you already! Arrangements are under the care of Veilleux & Redington Funeral Home, 8 Elm Street, Waterville, ME.



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Charles Ferguson

November 18, 2020

When we moved to Maine, my aunt Betty (also a Special Librarian) told us of Alleen, and we met her mother. We saw Alleen at Colby events, and I was going to do clockwork for her, but she declined a house call, and we never arranged a handoff.
I see that Betty and Alleen were the finest kind of kindred spirits.


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