Sandra Lee Thompson was more than a reporter who fought for a byline. Her life centered around creating change and using her words as weapons to protect the children of Las Vegas.
For her efforts, Clark County School District officials named Thompson Elementary School, 7351 N. Campbell Road, for the former Las Vegas Sun columnist and executive.
“She was a voice for kids and families when there was no other voice in the community,” said Bill Gang, a former reporter at the Sun. “She was a marvelous person who supported her staff greatly and had a great sense of right and wrong.”
Thompson was born Sandra Lee Bazonis on Aug. 24, 1948, in Hanover, Pa. She was the eldest of six children. She graduated from Delone Catholic High School and went on to receive a degree in social work at Pennsylvania State University.
While working as a reporter for a Connecticut newspaper in 1973, she met and married the editor, Gary Thompson.
“The first thing I noticed about Sandy was how beautiful she was. She was also a very good writer,” Gary said. “She always was a caring person. I think it had to do with her upbringing. She came from a poor family.”
In 1975, the couple moved to New York, but three years later, they headed west and ended up finding a home in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.
In September 1980, the couple had their only daughter, Kelly Thompson.
“My mom was always trying to help children,” Kelly said. “I remember I had a friend when I was younger. He lived with his mom, but she wasn’t a good role model for him. My mom was able to go to court and have him placed in the care of his aunt.”
While working at the paper, Thompson wore many hats. Between 1978 and 1997, she served as the copy, features and managing editor.
In 1997, she became the vice president and associate editor for the paper. That year, she won the Nevada Press Association’s Story of the Year award for “A Family Torn,” which focused on a local couple who lost guardianship of their daughter.
During her 23 years at the Sun, Thompson became passionate about the need to advocate for children and families in trouble.
In the proposal to name a school for Thompson, Patrick L. Herron, former assistant superintendent for facilities with the Clark County School District, applauded her volunteer efforts as a leader, teacher and worker, which led to a scholarship program for Class! publications, the Mother of the Year contest and hands-on workshops in the Sun Youth Forum.
Her columns helped raise the cap on child support payments and brought child welfare programs to the forefront for legislative actions, according to Herron.
“She strove to effect positive change in her community by adhering to strong moral values and challenging her readers to put themselves in the shoes of children, parents and educators,” Herron wrote in the 2002 dedication.
Thompson’s life was cut short at age 55 on Aug. 9, 2002, when she was struck and killed at a stoplight by a 21-year-old driving under the influence of a controlled or prohibited substance.
“My mom was my best friend,” Kelly said. “It’s still hard to talk about her. She was my biggest fan, and having her in my corner made me stronger. She was so valuable to the community. Everyone loved her.”
Contact North View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.