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Russell Rayburn Thompson
January 25, 1938 ~ August 11, 2023 (age 85) 85 Years Old
Read more about the life story of Russell and share your memory.
Russell Rayburn Thompson Obituary
Russell Rayburn Thompson left behind many family and friends when he peacefully passed away at his home in Libby, Montana on August 11th, 2023. Russ was born on January 25th, 1938 in Dillon, Montana to Rayburn and Barbara Thompson.
Russ grew up across many small towns in Montana. He resided in Bannack, Montana where his father was a teacher and his mother ran a store. The Thompson’s then moved to Clinton, Montana for 2 years until his father was called to service in World War II. During this time, Russ lived with his mom and aunt in Dillon, Montana. Upon his father’s return from military service, the family moved to Hobson, Montana where Russ attended school until the 8th grade. Then, the family moved to Moccasin, Montana where Rayburn taught and Barbara ran the local mercantile store. Russ was an exceptional athlete, excelling in football, basketball and baseball until he graduated from Moccasin High School in 1956.
After high school, Russ attended Western Montana College in Dillon, Montana. He played basketball and baseball for Western until he graduated with a teaching degree in 1964. In the middle of his college years, Russ took a 2-year break from school to teach at St. Xavier High School, cementing his dream that becoming a teacher and coach was the right path for him. Upon graduating, Russ returned to Hobson where he taught for 2 years.
Russ was married to Evelyn Adele Withington in 1960. They had 4 children, Tim, Terri, Karolee and Lisa. The growing family moved to Augusta, Montana for 2 years where Russ taught and coached. The following year, Russ took his family to California to be closer to Evelyn’s family.
Russ finally found his forever home in Libby when he moved the family in 1970. He taught business and PE at Libby High School during this time. He did leave teaching for a year in 1973 to work on building the Libby Dam. 1974 was a big year for Russ. He returned to teaching and married Jeanne Cook. For the next 20 years, Russ helped raise his children and welcome his adopted sons, Brian and Tom, while teaching and coaching at Libby High School. Russ loved Libby, Libby people and Libby athletes. He attended just about every high school sporting event for the last 45 years.
Many people will remember Russ for his coaching accolades. He started the girls basketball and softball programs at Libby High School. He also was the initial coach for the girls softball program in Troy. Russ was humble about his coaching accomplishments. However, not only did he win 7 state championships for Libby High School as a head coach, (1 in boys golf, 2 in girls golf and 4 in softball), he touched the lives on many athletes. Russ was excited to become the Activities Coordinator for Libby High School, but saddened that he had to give up coaching to take on the new position. Russ also enjoyed officiating high school sports. He officiated for 57 years in the sports of basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball. He was honored to have been selected to officiate 5 state basketball tournaments and 2 state football championships.
Russ retired from teaching in 1994, but he continued his long running summer job of working as a Fire Prevention Technician for the US Forest Service. He also continued to coach and officiate all the way to the “young at heart” age of 81, finally hanging up the whistle in 2019. Russ was always there to promote and support sports and the youth of Libby and Troy in any capacity he could help.
Russ is preceded in death by his parents, Rayburn and Barbara Thompson, brother Marshall Thompson, and father and mother in laws Jack and Wynn Cook. Russ is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Jeanne Thompson, his 7 children, Tim Thompson, Terri Rowan (Craig), Karolee Jones (Rob), Brian Thompson (Shannon), Tom Thompson (Cathy) and Lisa Modler (Glenn). Along with 7 great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews, Russ had 11 grandchildren, Heath Thompson, Nicole Lloyd Rowan (Mark), Jennifer Oxley (Andrew), Zachary Carl Russell Rowan, Krystle Kluesner, Taylor Jones, Alexa Thompson, Morgan Roach (Ricky), Haylee Arceo (Greg), Samantha Thompson, Amber Thompson and Bryce Thompson. He is also survived by his brother-in-law James Cook and sister-in-law Susan Roberson.
Russ will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, coach and friend. He would not want anyone to grieve for him. Instead, please celebrate a life well lived and a man well loved.