A Tribute to my mother
(November 16, 1925 - April 2, 1965)
Photos of Zona Thompson:
A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF
(Based on an interview with Ben Thompson, notes from Thalia Thompson
and reminiscences by Bill Thompson)
Zona Norris Rich was born in Percilla, Texas in Houston County on
November 16, 1925 to Albert Rich and Clara Jones Rich.
Zona's lifelong friend from childhood was Edith Deerman. Click here to read Edith's memories of
growing up with Zona in the Palestine area.
Ben: Zona graduated
from Palestine High School and then
attended Nixon Business College in Palestine. After
graduation, she went to work for Royall Bank in the Bookkeeping
Department, posting the activity to the bank statements.
Sometimes she would have to work late balancing the accounts and
getting the statements out. She could really make those
posting machines talk. Zona was the fastest on an adding
machine or a posting machine than anyone I’ve ever seen.
Then in at the bank in College Station, she was a Proof
Clerk, posting and balancing the transactions between
banks. She would also work in the Bookkeeping Department if
they needed her to.
When we moved to Houston in 1952, she was expecting, but was
feeling fine and wanted to work, so she applied at First City National
Bank, and they hired her immediately. She worked on a posting
machine there. Then when Bill was born in 1953, she quit the job
to stay home with the baby. From then on she was a
full-time homemaker. Lynne was born in 1955.
Bill: Zona was
very active in the PTA at Park Place
Elementary School. She also taught Sunday School at Park
Place Baptist Church.
Here are some of my childhood memories of Zona:
- Zona had a great sense of humor and a
hearty, infectious laugh. When she laughed, she would lean
back and laugh loud and long, and then say “Oh, Shoot!”
- She would ably assist Ben when he would
play a practical joke on someone. Examples are the dribble
glass, the plate wobbler, and the whoopee cushion.
- She loved to watch the soap opera “As The
World Turns” every day at 12:30 PM. Then she would discuss
the latest episode with Uncle Jim and Aunt Louise, who lived next door.
- Zona was not a musician, but she dearly
loved music. She always had the pop hits going on the car
radio. She was always singing while cleaning the house,
doing dishes or doing laundry. Some of the popular songs I
remember her singing back in the 50’s are “Music Music Music (Put
Another Nickel In)”, “Tammy”, and “The Wayward Wind”.
She would also sing gospel songs.
- She was diligent about getting us to our
piano lessons and then making sure we practiced during the week.
- She would cook Southern-style dishes that
she knew from growing up in Palestine, like pot roast, green beans, and
- Sometimes as an afternoon treat for us,
she would bake some pie crust sticks with cinnamon sugar on them.
- Her own favorite afternoon snack was a
glass of cornbread with buttermilk poured on top of it.
- She walked us to school (about 2 miles)
until we were old enough to ride our bikes to school.
- As part of the PTA program, she would
sometimes help sell snow cones to the students after school on snow
- Zona was very dedicated about helping raise funds
annually for the Muscular Dystrophy Association
and for the March of Dimes to fight birth defects.
- She loved going back to Palestine to see
relatives and to get out of the city for a while.
- Zona liked to wear casual clothes like
“pedal pushers” and flats during the week, but on Sunday she would
always dress very nicely. I remember she had a reversible
purse: it was black with white beads on it, but when turned inside out,
it was white with multicolored beads on it. It would
color-coordinate with anything.
- In the summers, once we learned to swim,
she would take us out to the Humble Country Club on Almeda-Genoa to
swim. We would have an ice chest of canned drinks and a
picnic lunch, and drive out there with the windows rolled down and
great music on the radio.
Ben: We took
the family trip to Disneyland in 1960, and
then in 1961 we were up at Palestine. Hazel had a problem with
her breast, and so she suggested that Zona examine herself too, and
they found the lump in her left breast. So Hazel made
arrangements for Zona to see her doctor in Palestine while we were up
there. The doctor said he didn’t think there was anything
wrong, but she had better get this checked in
Houston. So back in Houston she set up an
appointment with Dr. Kennedy. Dr. Kennedy scheduled a
biopsy in Methodist Hospital. They found the
tumor was malignant, and so they had to remove her left breast.
They also took the lymph nodes under her left arm. But
after the surgery she got along great, and they felt like at the time
that she was going to be all right.
She didn’t have any more signs of trouble until December
1964, when she started having a persistent cough. The
oncologist, Dr. Hoaglin, recommended a hysterectomy, which was
considered effective at that time, to reduce hormone
activity. That procedure was done in early January 1965,
and she improved so much and X-rays showed the tumor had shrunk to a
very small size. They were very encouraged.
We have good pictures of Zona with the family on Valentines
Day 1965. But by the first part of March, she was becoming
ill again with a persistent cough. She taught Sunday School
on Sunday, March 28. She started feeling very ill on
Tuesday. Zona was admitted to Hermann Hospital on
Wednesday, March 31. Hazel and Nannie came down to help
out. Ben stayed with Zona at the hospital through Thursday
night. Hazel relieved him late Friday morning so he could
go home and shave and rest. But about noon Hazel called Ben
to come back to the hospital. Zona was having terrible trouble
breathing. She passed away about 20 minutes after Ben
returned to the hospital. The autopsy showed that the cancer had
spread to her heart muscle, and caused heart failure. That
is the reason that the end came so quickly.
Zona passed away on Friday, April 2, 1965.
and I knew that our Mom was sick, because
we had gone down to see her earlier that week in the
hospital. But we had no idea how serious her condition
was. We rode our bikes home from school that Friday and saw
a driveway full of cars, which was unusual. We went in and
Dad was there and everybody was crying, so we knew something was
wrong. Dad sat us down on the couch and broke the news to us:
“Mom’s gone to be with Jesus.” We were in a state of shock.
The arrangements were handled by Niday Funeral
Home. The funeral service was held at Park Place Baptist
Church on Monday, April 5, 1965, followed by the graveside service at
Forest Park East.
I am so thankful to God for Zona Thompson, a wonderful mother who,
along with our dad Ben Thompson, raised us in a Christian home that was
with love, laughter and music.
Jesus said to her,
"I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies,
and everyone who lives and believes in Me
shall never die."
Here are links to hear some
Hymns and Gospel Songs: