Thompson left legacy in pictures
Butler Eagle
Written by:
September 19, 2012

This is the seventh in a series of seven articles profiling the Seneca Valley Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012.

HARMONY — Ray Thompson photographed countless moments in Seneca Valley sports history.

At a ceremony at Seneca Valley High School Sept. 8, the moment belonged to him.

Thompson died in January at the age of 75. He received a posthumous induction into the Seneca Valley Sports Hall of Fame, along with six others.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Thompson’s widow, Mary Ann of the honor. “He would be so pleased.”

“He was always on our list as a contributor,” said Sue Ennis, SV’s librarian and media specialist, who is also a member of the Hall of Fame’s selection committee. “But the Hall of Fame’s bylaws state that only one contributor can be taken in per year. It is regrettable that Ray was not inducted during his lifetime, but he did know he was being considered.”

Over the years, Thompson’s photographs appeared in several newspapers, including the Butler/Cranberry Eagle.

Ennis knew Thompson for over 35 years, beginning when she started to attend Seneca Valley in the mid 1970s.

“I called him Uncle Ray,” she said. “He highlighted moments of every sport at Seneca. He used to show up at the team banquets and take pictures of entire teams, MVPs ... he always seemed to be there.

“But more importantly was the camaraderie he built with the players and coaches,” she added.

Indeed, Thompson’s photographs were just one way he left an impression on the entire school district. Running into him at an event on SV’s campus ensured one of getting his warm smile, a firm handshake and a funny story or two. Leaving his company in a bad mood was almost impossible.

“Sometimes, he would just show up at events,” said Ennis. “This was before the internet when sports schedules weren’t easily found. He would find out when the game was and would make time for it.”

Thompson’s work was not confined to sports. He also took news photographs and was a regular at community events, with camera in tow. His images earned him 30 Keystone Press and Golden Quill Awards.

“He was very pleased with that,” Mary Ann Thompson said. “When they picked his picture, it made him feel good.”

Thompson was heavily involved in sports during his youth. He played for Zelienople High School’s football and track and field teams, breaking the school’s high jump record before graduating in 1953.

He entered the U.S. Air Force in 1954 and was stationed in Okinawa, where he learned to speak Japanese.

“He dabbled in photography a bit while in the service, but didn’t see it as a career,” Mary Ann said. “It wasn’t until the 1970s that he really got into it.”

Ray and Mary Ann’s first date came Oct. 13, 1960. They traveled to Pittsburgh to immerse themselves in the city’s celebration following Bill Mazeroski’s legendary home run, which was hit earlier that day.

The couple married June 23, 1962. They ended up having five children — daughters Teresa, Renea and Raylene and sons Thomas and Michael. All five played sports at Seneca Valley and were present at the induction.