Sanderson Museum remembers Tommy Thompson

Museum remembers first curator

By Linda Banks, Special to The Times


The first curator of the Sanderson Museum, Tommy Thompson, is warmly remembered by staff and board members.

In November the last flash of sun adds final colorful brilliance to our trees and our lives, but autumn also predicts falling leaves and winter’s chill.  November always brings the fleeting Sanderson Museum schedule to a close until spring returns.  This year, November’s traditional expectations were met in a third way by our museum’s loss of Tommy Thompson, the founding curator and last surviving founding board member.  

On November 14, a close-knit, diverse group gathered at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester to celebrate the life of this fine man. As a series of black and white photographs played above the memorial event hosted by Thompson’s son Bruce (commercial airline pilot and retired Delaware Air National Guard pilot and brigadier general), he opened with personal recollections reflecting a forthright honesty of which his father would surely have approved.  He ended with a forward-looking poem before welcoming the roomful of guests to share their own comments and memories.

Many, including Sally Denk-Hoey, the museum’s former president, and Charles Ulmann, the current curator, expressed their personal fondness for and appreciation of the steadfast mentor and colleague who had brought the museum from chaos to structure.  Family members, friends, neighbors and workmates continued to interweave the narrative of the man they knew with spontaneous comments and anecdotes. The spoken words concluded with Tom Hoey’s strong, clear, resonant playing of Taps which held the room quietly rapt until the final whisper of sound had trailed away.

The Sanderson Museum was closed for the day, but as Tommy Thompson (and certainly Chris himself) would have expected, it opened again on Saturday, November 15 at noon.

As a Sanderson tour guide, I often introduce museum visitors to our collection as the miraculous intersection of two exceptional people in a meeting which showcases the finest elements of each one.  First, Christian C. Sanderson felt that he was called to participate in, celebrate, and record significant historical moments of his country and local region.  He amassed thousands of personal  items which reinforced historical events and personal experiences.  He attached small explanatory notes to thousands of these items.  Second, Tommy Thompson, Chris’s friend, was entrusted with the labor of sorting, organizing, cataloguing and displaying the minutiae of Chris’s life.  Two miracles found each other; both required patience, respect and diligence.  The ultimate result was the Christian C. Sanderson Museum.

How fortunate we are that the Wyeth family (Andrew, in particular) stepped in to endorse the development of the museum.  How fortunate we are that Chris documented his robust, intentional life with detailed collections and commentary.  How fortunate we are that Karen Kuder Finkelstein created the rich film “Cannonballs, Anecdotes and Artifacts” and peppered it with interviews that reveal the Wyeths, Tommy Thompson, and a wide range of musicians and friends who valued Chris as a hub of Chadds Ford history.

If you have not visited the Christian C. Sanderson Museum recently, put it on your calendar for 2015.  Thanksgiving and the coming holidays may be your season to be thankful for one more thing:  the intersecting lives which converged in the creation of this historical gem.

The Christian C. Sanderson Museum is located at 1755 Creek Road, Chadds Ford, PA just north or Route 1.  It is open March through November, Thursday through Sunday, from 12 to 4 P.M. or by appointment.  Entry is $5.00 for adults.  Children under 12 are free when accompanied by an adult.  You may obtain more information by calling the museum at 610-388-6545 or by requesting information at .  The website is

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