AN MIA man well known for his love of family and sport is being remembered as a true champion.
Griffith's Keith "Butch" Thompson passed away on November 16 after a short illness at 91 years of age.
Mr Thompson lived in Griffith for 53 years, but also had many connections to Leeton and Whitton.
"Butch" was well known in Griffith and Riverina AFL circles and was widely regarded in the NSW Railways where he was the senior goods clerk at Griffith from 1968 to his retirement in 1991.
"Butch" grew up in Whitton, the youngest of seven children to Bill and Lucy Thompson and played his initial first grade match for the Tigers as a 16-year-old back flanker in 1946.
He attended school at Leeton High School before then joining the NSW Railways as a clerk and moved to Culcairn for two years before being appointed to the Griffith Railway Station in 1949 when he joined the Griffith Swans.
He played at centre-half-back in Griffith Swans first ever South West League premiership in 1952, ironically defeating Whitton (this almost caused a major rift in the family as his father Bill was a life member of the Tigers and he had several brothers and cousins playing as well).
He had two brothers - Norm and "Jazbo" - playing for clubs in the South West League and their clashes over the years were legendary.
All three were good enough to play in the VFL in Melbourne, but playing at that level was not the life changing experience it is today. They all preferred to work and play in the country.
He played 100 matches for the Swans and won a best and fairest at Griffith in 1950, mainly at centre-half-back and also in 1952. He played at Narrandera in a South-West League team that played a VFL team made up the players to just miss selection in the Victorian team that played in the Australian carnival.
"Butch" was one of the best players against some of the biggest names in VFL football at the time, such as Lou Richards.
It was in Griffith he met and then in 1952 married the love of his life, Joy Berecry.
He was then transferred to Queanbeyan with the NSW Railways in 1953, where he played starring roles in Queanbeyan-Acton's premierships in 1953, 1954 and 1956 and in the losing grand final team of 1955, mainly as a centre-half-back and in the ruck.
"Butch" won two best and fairest awards (1955, 1956) for the combine in his four years at the club.
He was runner-up in Mulrooney Medal for best and fairest in the ACTAFL by one vote in 1954 after missing the last three matches due to his mother being quite ill and then passing away.
He also represented the ACTAFL a number of times.
He was transferred to Tocumwal at the end of 1956 and spent 11 years there, playing 160 matches and taking part in the 1965 and 1966 losing grand finals before retiring at 38-years-old with a shoulder injury, thereby missing Tocumwal's 1967 flag.
He was a three time best and fairest winner in 1957, 1958 and 1960 and was a regular representative for Murray League, being in the legendary Murray League team that defeated St Kilda in 1960 (only the second and last time a country team beat a VFL team) and then keeping Hawthorn's then VFL leading goalkicker John Peck to two goals as the Hawks narrowly defeated Murray League at Tocumwal in 1963.
"Butch" moved back to Griffith in a senior position for the railways in 1968 and was Griffith Swans' chairman of selectors from 1968-73, which included the Swans second SWDFL premiership win.
He coached under 14s through to under 19s for a number of years and was also president of the Swans Juniors for many years.
"Butch" was heavily involved in the Swans Supporters Club before taking on the senior club president's role in 1974, a position he held for four seasons. He was also a selector for the South West League for many years.
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"Butch" was a life member of all three clubs, which is testament to his ability as a footballer, but also that he gave as much, if not more off the field. He was also a life member of the Griffith Swans Junior Football Club and the Swans Supporters Club.
That he won six club best and fairests over three clubs suggests that he was also a pretty handy footballer. He was also a good cricketer, representing Griffith in O'Farrell Cup and was more than a handy tennis player. In his later years he enjoyed lawn bowls and golf.
His wife Joy was a long-serving Griffith Swans Ladies Committee member and president of Griffith Golf Club Ladies Committee for many years and their two sons Greg and Neil played senior football for the Swans.
"Butch" was laid to rest at Griffith Lawn Cemetary after a funeral service at Collier Trenerry Chapel on November 24.
He is survived by his loving wife of 68 years, Joy, and family in Greg and Maryanne, Gay and Michael Murphy and Neil and Fiona, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.