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SCV Sheriff’s Station volunteer coordinator takes role of volunteer

Posted: April 28, 2013 3:23 p.m.
Updated: April 28, 2013 3:23 p.m.
Artie Thompson with a sheriff's patrol car. Artie Thompson with a sheriff's patrol car.
Artie Thompson with a sheriff's patrol car.

Artie Thompson — the nation’s one-time Airman of the Year, the state’s National Guardsman and the community’s veteran sheriff’s deputy reserve coordinator — is retired but not deterred in pursuing his civic duties.

The former Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputy who became the department’s unofficial face with his many and varied exploits over his 23 years of service is returning for more work at the department — this time volunteer work.

Although he officially retired from his senior deputy position at Pitchess Detention Center on March 28, the 56-year-old married father of three girls — Jaclyn, 12, and twin 8-year-olds Danielle and Jennifer — is not calling it quits and not slowing down.

“We’re going on a Disney cruise at the end of June,” he said, referring to his wife, Joanne, and their daughters.

“But after that, I’ll be going back to the reserve deputies.”

Thompson was born in Boston.

He moved to Southern California in 1983 when the Sheriff’s Department was on a “big hiring drive” preparing for the 1984 Olympics.

For almost the last quarter century he’s called the Santa Clarita Valley his home, and Santa Clarita Valley residents — be they students, volunteers, or sheriff’s deputies — have called him one of their own.

Thompson has rallied local deputies for some of Santa Clarita’s top events including the Amgen Tour of California, the Fourth of July parade and the Cowboy Festival.

When he tells his stories of volunteerism, they’re not stories about himself but, rather, about the volunteers with whom he works, including 40 or so reserve deputies and the volunteer posse.

“They do a lot and get nothing for it,” he said.

When he praises the efforts of his fellow volunteers, he does it with an indisputable Boston accent.
So when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred, he didn’t have to go far to find a connection.

“A friend of mine from Boston was visiting us and her daughter was running in the marathon,” he said.
“She was OK,” he added.

Throughout his career, Thompson has responded to many tragic events and emergencies, both as a volunteer reserve deputy with the Search & Rescue team and as a National Guard reservist deployed to Qatar.

Overseas he ferried military personnel in and out of Iraq from Qatar.

Back at home, he found himself in a helicopter searching for people lost in the rugged areas of Los Angeles County.

He has a reservoir of sad stories gathered from both experiences.

An emergency call for a lost hunter back in 1997 ended in bad news, he recalled, reflecting on his days with Search & Rescue.

“He had (suffered) a rifle shot to the chest,” he said.

Fortunately, Thompson said, he also has many good stories to pull from his past, and good news to report.

Many of Santa Clarita Valley’s youngsters grew up with memories of Artie Thompson as the voice of puppets who starred in safety skits he put on at schools.

“I was the voice of Rocky Raccoon,” he said. “I did puppet shows about ‘stranger danger’ and ‘crosswalk safety.’ I later did spelling bees.”

Thompson became one of the first sheriff’s deputies assigned to a local school for the nascent school-based deputy program, but only after becoming a friend and trusted adult at elementary schools in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“I’d turn the jump rope for the girls and I’d throw the baseball out for the boys,” he said, reminiscing.

Then Thompson started his post at Hart High School.

He met his wife, Joanne, at a school posting, he said.

But the perks of volunteerism didn’t stop there.

In 1998, for his outstanding military service as a National Guardsman, Thompson was named the country’s Airman of the Year in the category of noncommissioned officer.

His trophy recognizing civic duty on a grand scale reads: “1998 ANG Outstanding NCO of the year, St. Sgt. Arthur E. Thompson, California Air National Guard.”

The awarding committee flew Thompson and his wife out to Washington for a 10-day stay when the award was presented.

For Thompson, however, the prize is in the service.

“Enough can’t be said about these reserve deputies,” he said. “They get nothing.”

The volunteers do get Thompson, however.
“I’ve sort of become their voice,” he said.

And that’s something.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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