For family and friends of Jolyon Thompson, memories are held close, protected from time.
There he is as a ten-year-old in Georgetown, Guyana, flying toward badminton practice with his little brother Sean balanced on the crossbar of a brand-new bicycle, in burnished red, a present from his father for achieving the country’s highest marks in his preparatory-school grade. Jolyon would have preferred a chopper bike with high handlebars and a banana seat, but that was not meant to be.
Years later, in the heady first days as a student at University of Toronto’s Trinity College, 17-year-old Jolyon sat in the grand hall, craning his neck to get a better view of a student named Megan Welsh when, as luck would have it, their eyes met.
After several far-too-late invitations to school dances (a predictor, perhaps, of Jolyon’s future renown for the deliciously delayed Thanksgiving turkey) Megan invited him to tea and the rest, as they say, led to marriage and two strapping sons.
Jolyon Michael Arrindell Thompson died at the age of 61 on February 26 in Port Hope, Ontario. Fit and agile from decades of badminton, as a gold-medal competitor, coach, umpire and nationally-accredited referee, his death was sudden.
Jolyon was born in Georgetown, Guyana on November 12, 1961, to Pamela Patricia Martin and Desmond Michael Arrindell Thompson. He is profoundly missed by his wife, Megan Thompson, his sons Kyle (Alanna) and Graeme, his brother, Sean and a great many cousins, uncles, aunties, nephews and nieces.
After graduating from Trinity College with a degree in psychology and time spent volunteering for the John Howard Society, he took a job as a corrections ministry probation officer in the Cobourg courthouse, east of Toronto.
It was there, in his patient way, that Jolyon counselled young people who found themselves in trouble with the law, capturing their attention through a philosophical blend of consequence and unrelenting optimism.
Years later, in the local grocery store, parents stopped him in the aisles with updates of young lives transformed, thanking him for inspiring their children and after saying goodbye, Jolyon would find his wife and continue shopping, his eyes shining.
He spent his career with the Ontario Public Service, in the corrections ministry and most recently as an area manager for the Ministry of the Solicitor General, based in Don Mills. It was work that made a difference and a job that he loved.
By nature, Jolyon was a defender and a diplomat. He was a connoisseur of fine wine and a gardener who referred to each species of flora by its Latin name. And, he was a coach to many, including the Centennial College varsity badminton team, mentoring young people in sports and life. In the photo taken after the Centennial men’s badminton team won the 2022-23 championship title, Jolyon stood in the back row, arms linked with players, his smile wide. The Colts marked his passing on Instagram, calling him a “bright spirit loved by many.”
Most of all, he was a family man.
“He was my husband and my best friend,” said Megan. “I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do without him.”
Jolyon was passionate about his sons’ education and, athleticism. While he provided them with an early indoctrination into the indisputable supremacy of badminton, Jolyon watched with the same intensity as they played soccer and later, competed internationally in track. He was proud of his sons as they grew into men, reaching personal, professional and academic success.
With their boys grown, Megan and Jolyon were making plans for a new phase of life, when she would eventually retire as a pathologists’ assistant in a California hospital, and they would spend time with friends or travel to countries where badminton is a national sport.
Jolyon had many friends, including those he met at the Cobourg badminton club where, as Megan said, his tendency toward “hypoglycaemia brain” once led to a long-standing joke with another couple.
“At a club dinner, we were sitting together, and it was taking forever for dinner to be served. Jolyon was starving. He was thinking ‘ravenous’ and ‘famished’ and somehow combined the two words and announced that he was … ‘ravishing!’”
Some of the best memories come from elaborate holiday meals at Megan and Jolyon’s home.
Humour requires an element of truth, and it was known among family (Sherlock!) that if Jolyon’s invitation called for an arrival time of 3 p.m., odds were the meal wouldn’t be ready for another six hours.
It was always turkey, roasted on the barbeque, that arrived late.
Jolyon was in charge of the turkey.
Once, with great mirth, his mother-in-law recalled watching him sprint across the front lawn, empty propane tank in hand, and speeding away in his car to buy more fuel, while 30 hungry relatives unknowingly sat inside.
It was always worth the wait.
As his son Kyle said, Jolyon began every meal, whether family or friends, with a speech.
“Dad would always say how happy or excited or thankful or proud he was of the moment, and the speech would always be perfectly long, not needing to say too much or too little,” Kyle said.
“I always felt that those talks left everyone in a feel-good mood and they would cause people to then open up and feel even more comfortable in the room,” he said.
“Creating that environment where people felt comfortable and able to be themselves with others was one of the superpowers he had, and I have yet to see someone else be able to generate that openness in a room.”
No one expected this ending.
A blocked coronary artery was Jolyon’s cause of death. Megan is deeply appreciative of the kindness from the coroner, and pathologists who examined him, giving the family closure.
A few hours before he died, she spoke to Jolyon from California on a video call.
“He was busy, and he was happy,” she said. “I can still see his face, he was so animated, he had that big smile.”
That was Jolyon, being ravishing.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to the Jolyon Thompson Scholarship at Centennial College -
Visitation will be held on Friday, March 17, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Allison’s Funeral Home, 103 Mill Street, in Port Hope, Ontario. The funeral service will be held on Saturday March 18, at 10 a.m. at St. John’s Anglican Church, 33 Pine Street North, in Port Hope. The service will be followed by the cemetery interment and a reception at St. John’s Church Hall at 33 Pine Street North.