October 2, 1920 – February 24, 2019 Mary Margaret Thompson, a Los Altos resident who was a dedicated volunteer at the Los Altos History Museum and encouraged children to write by founding a popular annual historical essay contest, died at the age of 98 on Feb. 24, 2019, in Los Altos. Margaret was born on Oct. 2, 1920, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, to Lillian and Horace Nichols. The oldest of three children, Margaret grew up on a dairy farm and met her husband, U.S. Navy Commander Ejnar Nicolai Christian Thompson, while attending Ardmore schools. After passing the civil service examination, Margaret moved to Washington, D.C., in 1942 where she worked as a secretary for the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Ships. Meanwhile, Ejnar attended the U.S. Naval Academy as part of the Class of ’44 in nearby Annapolis. In 1943, because of the war, the Navy decided to allow midshipmen to marry.
Margaret and Ejnar were the first couple to marry at the U.S. Naval Academy chapel under the new rule, and a photograph of them passing through a military arch of swords on the church steps ran in newspapers across the country, including The New York Times. Ejnar’s training to become a Naval pilot took the couple around the country to Florida, Texas, and California. Their son, E. N. Christian, Jr, was born in 1945. Their daughter, Susan, was born in 1948. The family moved to Los Altos in the early 1950s. Margaret was widowed in 1960 when Ejnar’s plane crashed in the Santa Cruz Mountains during a flight exercise at Moffett Field. Determined to further her education and support her family, Margaret studied journalism at Foothill College and then went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree from San Jose State University in 1964. After working for many years as an admissions officer at Foothill College and then as office manager for the California Arts Society, her adventurous spirit led to her become a travel agent in 1978. In that role, she traveled all over the world, walking the Great Wall in China, going on safari in Africa, and enjoying Broadway shows in New York City. But the place she loved returning to again and again was Honolulu, Hawaii. As a volunteer, she was active in the Episcopal Church and the Los Altos History House Musuem, and served on the Los Altos Historical Commission. An avid reader who enjoyed writing in her free time, she launched the Margaret Thompson Historical Essay Contest in 1985 for students in grades three to six. The contest, run by the Historical Commission, continues to this day, with this year’s theme based on an exhibit at the history museum called “Inspired by Juana: La Doña de la Frontera.” Margaret, who will be buried next to her husband at Arlington National Cemetery, is survived by her daughter, Susan Farrell; her granddaughter, Mariko Beck; her grandson, Christian Thompson; and three great-grandchildren. She will be remembered for her boundless curiosity, her fierce independence, and her determination to live life to its fullest.