The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Thompson has a 'homecoming'

Calendar cover photo taken by the doctor who started the clinic


November 20, 2019


PHOTO DOC: Dr. Neal Thompson has the cover picture on the Sentinel's 2020 Calendar (right). Thompson started the Family Practice Clinic in Goldendale in the early 1960s and was chief of staff at KVH.

Neal Thompson's striking photograph of Stonehenge was chosen as the cover picture for The Goldendale Sentinel's 2020 Calendar. But for a great many people in town, he's remembered as Dr. Thompson-the doctor who started the Family Practice Clinic in Goldendale.

Thompson first dropped into town in 1963, when he was just out of the U.S. Public Health Service out in Arizona. He connected with Klickitat Valley Developers, and they built the clinic for him.

"It was a time in which physicians were rare," Thompson recalls. "Certainly family physicians were extremely rare at this time. I grew up outside Yakima, and I went throughout eastern Washington looking for a place to practice. There were many opportunities, but Goldendale seemed to be one of the best. It clicked. Valley Developers, under Joe Dressel and Mr. Toll, said that they would arrange for financing of the clinic and build it. And so I gave them some plans to build the clinic, and they did."

It went up at 711 Collins, right near Klickitat Valley Health (KVH). The hospital had a hand in determining where to put the clinic; Thompson, working closely with KVH, was offered a spot on Main Street but chose to place it handy to the hospital. Thompson would later become chief of staff for KVH.

He was in Goldendale from 1963 to 2001, when he went to Alaska to work with Inuit Indians who had a hard time getting medical attention. He did this for about four years before he decided to hang up his stethoscope and retire to Ashland, Oregon, where he lives now.

And what's this about photography? Thompson's name was unfamiliar to the current Sentinel staff that selected the final pictures to run in the 2020 calendar, but even if it were, that would have played no part in choosing his pictures. They earned their placement-he has four pictures altogether in the calendar-purely on the merit of the images, as indeed is true for all the pictures. His shots are compelling visuals, full of fascinating colors and contrasts even in some of the most photographed places, such as Stonehenge, around Goldendale.

"My dad did photography as a hobby," Thompson recalls. "He was a farmer near Yakima, raising apples, and he had it as a hobby, and I just sort of followed in. I got more interested in photography even when I was in junior high school, and dad had his own dark room, and I started working in the dark room, and I've had the dark room ever since."

Surely he must have paid for some of his photographs. No, he says. "It's always been a hobby. No professional photography. I sort of avoided that, but I've been fairly active in a camera club. I started with The Dallas camera club, soon after I started practice in Goldendale, and I've continued to work in camera clubs ever since. I've been very active with the Columbia Council of Camera Clubs and the Photographic Society of America."

Of course he longer needs a dark room these days. He made the switch to digital photography almost as soon as he went to Ashland. "When I moved down here, I set up my color dark room, but never used it. I went immediately to a digital photography and Photoshop."

Although Thompson has been out of the area for many years, his Stonehenge cover picture was taken within the last three years when he was last up around here. Taking beautiful pictures in this region makes his hobby easier, he states. "Klickitat County is an especially pretty county for scenic photography," he says. "It's just a fun place to take a lot of photos."

The Sentinel hopes he keeps them coming. Meanwhile, Thompson won a Kindle Fire tablet from the newspaper for taking the cover spot of the calendar.


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