In Memory: Sandra Thompson

For more than 15 years, Sandra was a tireless, meticulous volunteer, who wanted things done right. In 2013 she was honored with a Lifetime Service Award.

Sandra’s first joined the Garden Tour Committee, where she assumed a leadership role in 2008 and was active in the Flower Show Committee. Both benefited from her organizational and recruiting abilities. Her long-term focus however was cultivating plants and encouraging their use in home gardens.

Sandra was a long-time faithful participant in Seed Starters East and a member of the Plant Sale Committee.  She learned more about propagation techniques, expanded her repertoire of native plants and worked to expand the plant sales. Under her leadership on the Plant Sale Committee from 2013 through 2016, the June plant sale –initially a modest event that offered both native plants and regular garden plants — became the Best Native Plant Sale in Rhode Island, offering over 3,200 natives. Thanks to Sandra’s vision and keen business sense, our plants sales became our sole fundraising effort. In addition to responding to the increasing demand for native plants, and educating the public on their ecological and aesthetic value, we learned that our sales could be organized to produce needed income.

There was no doubt, that once Sandra had set the course, the end result would be achieved. Volunteers gravitated to help.  And they all came to know her husband Paul, who supported every aspect of her work.  Sandra’s efforts to recruit RIWPS members and friends willing to donate flourishing native plants from their gardens to the sale were especially noteworthy. A colleague in Seed Starters, appreciating her passion to expand the stock of native plants, accompanied Sandra, even in the rain and cold of early spring, digging and collecting these donations. The Thompson’s home was legendary in East Greenwich as every year, all those plants, now repotted, lined their front walk and long driveway until delivered to East Farm for the sale in early June. When the Thompsons relocated to a smaller home a few years ago, their new location could not accommodate this repotting process and temporary care of so many plants. Sandra arranged for the continuation of this operation at another location. Still on her mission to offer as many plants as possible, her new home had sufficient space for a few stock beds dedicated for plants destined for the sale. She and Paul also established an additional stock bed at the Beechwood Garden, a joint RIWPS and URI Master Gardener Program project.

During all her years of her service including 2010 to 2013 on Board of Trustees, one of which was as interim Vice President, or most recently in 2019 and 2020 when she headed the nominating committee for the Board, Sandra led by example. She respected those she worked with and valued their contributions.  While her accomplishments were many, we will especially miss Sandra as a friend and colleague.