UPDATED: Former Provincial Court Judge Ralph Thompson has passed away

Colin MacLean colin.maclean@tc.tc
Published on July 10, 2014

Judge Ralph Thompson has spent the last eight months dealing with the complex laws over land use in this province. Guardian photo

SUMMERSIDE – He was that friend who would find any excuse for a party.

He wasn’t above wearing cowboy boots under his judge’s robe.

He was the kind of coworker who lent one woman’s son a tux for his graduation.

He loved his horses and introducing new people to them.

He would rather have been sailing.

These and a thousand other little details made Ralph Thompson the man he was.

Thompson, who served as a provincial court judge in Summerside and Alberton from 1985 to 2005, passed away Wednesday morning after a long battle with cancer.

P.E.I. Chief Justice David Jenkins considered Thompson a friend for more than 40 years.

He’ll be dearly missed, said Jenkins.

“To me, I think Ralph’s legacy is that he was a wonderful human being and he applied that humaneness in his public service. He treated everybody well and everybody equally,” he said.

“And on top of all that too, he was a great friend to be around because he had a big personality and an even bigger heart. It was always interesting to be around Ralph.”

Judge Jeff Lantz succeeded Thompson as provincial court judge in Summerside and appeared before him several times as a lawyer.

There are very few people who would argue Thompson was anything but fair-handed while sitting on the bench, said Lantz.

“He was just a laid-back easy-going guy. In all his years on the bench I don’t think he got too flustered over anything … he always treated me very well and I always thought I got a fair shake one way or another,” he said.

Originally born in Charlottetown, Thompson completed his first degree at the Prince of Wales College (now UPEI) and went on to study at Dalhousie Law School.

He returned to P.E.I. and practised with Campbell, Mitchell, Lea, Cheverie and Thompson.

In the public sector he served as a Crown prosecutor, departmental solicitor and director of legal services.

In 1985, he was appointed Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, a position he held until 1990 and again from 1995 to 2000.

After his retirement Thompson became heavily involved in various philanthropic ventures such as, Rotary and the Prince County Hospital Foundation.

He was also the author of a sweeping report on land use in P.E.I. that became known as The Thompson Report.

He and his wife Karen lived on the Blue Shank Road in Wilmot Valley.

Heather Matheson, managing director of the Prince County Hospital Foundation, met Thompson years ago through the Summerside Rotary club and worked with him during his six years on the foundation’s board of directors.

She remembers him as a driven volunteer and who’s leadership will be greatly missed.

“Ralph is an extremely dedicated person to whatever cause he takes on and he worked very hard for the foundation, it didn’t matter what you asked of him … I can’t even tell you how much we’re going to miss him,” she said.

Donna Arsenault, manager of the Summerside Provincial Courthouse, started work there roughly around the same time Thompson did.

She had a great respect for him, she said, and he had a great rapport with everyone in the office.

He quickly learned the names of everyone’s children, she recalled, and was always asking about them.

“He was a good man. We all really respected him as a judge and we’re going to miss him,” said Arsenault.

“I know as much as I do today because of him.”

Thompson is survived by his wife Karen, three children and their spouses, five grandchildren, brother and sister and many friends and family members.