Maynard Thompson stays active with his music. He's a member of the Chatfield Brass Band, plays in a brass trio and found time to play lead trumpet with the Peterson High School Alumni Band during Peterson's annual Gammel Dag Fest parade.  CHARLIE WARNER/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
Maynard Thompson stays active with his music. He's a member of the Chatfield Brass Band, plays in a brass trio and found time to play lead trumpet with the Peterson High School Alumni Band during Peterson's annual Gammel Dag Fest parade. CHARLIE WARNER/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP

On a hot, sunny Sunday afternoon, Maynard Thompson of Rushford watched the ball sail out of the pitcher's hand and arch towards him. He took a mighty swing and hit a sharp grounder to the third baseman. He sprinted for first with the gait of an athlete a third his age. He beat the throw to first and triumphantly raised his hands in celebration.

The crowd watching the vintage baseball game at the Highland Prairie Lutheran Church ball field of rural Peterson erupted with cheers. As his teammates put several hits together, Thompson raced for second, then third and finally home. The 78-year-old retired music teacher/principal/farmer had just scored a run for the Highland Prairie Hayseeds. The Hayseeds have more than a half dozen games on their schedule this summer. Thompson is penciled in as the starting pitcher for every game.

“Playing vintage baseball is great,” Thompson said. The Hayseeds have a number of older players on their team, but none with as many birthdays under their belt as Thompson.

There were a few pulled muscles and aches and pains reported following the first contest played in early June. “I haven't pulled any muscles, yet,” Thompson reported. “It might have something to do with my bike riding.”

Besides playing his share of baseball games, Thompson is an avid bike rider. Each weekday morning (weather permitting) he rides his bike from Rushford to Peterson on the Root River Trail (a 12-mile round trip) to meet “the boys at the table of knowledge. We work on solving the world's problems,” he said with a laugh.

But he can't spend too much time drinking coffee. He's still got his real job, selling seed for Chuck's Feed and Grain in Peterson.

When a bout with cancer forced him to retire 20 years ago from serving as the principal at Rushford-Peterson Middle School in Peterson, Thompson wasn't about to sit still. He helped his son, Brad, on their Norway Township farm and started selling seed for a number of different companies. After several company consolidations, Thompson retired as a seed salesman. That didn't last long. Chuck’s Feed and Grain was looking for a salesman and the ever-youthful Thompson was their man.

“It’s a great job,” Thompson noted. He goes out and visits with many of the friends and acquaintances he has developed during the seven decades he’s lived and worked in the Peterson area. “There’s not a lot of pressure and I don’t have set hours. It gets me out, keeps me active and I really do enjoy it.”

Thompson has had an “I might as well give it a try” attitude his entire life. He grew up on a farm about five miles south of Peterson. His father was a farmer and truck driver. His mother was a schoolteacher. He went off to college and planned to be a teacher. After his sophomore year of college, the superintendent at the Peterson school approached Thompson and asked him if he would consider teaching that fall in Peterson. He didn’t have his four-year degree yet, but due to a severe teacher shortage in the late 1950s, Thompson was allowed to teach as he worked to complete his bachelor’s degree.

“The superintendent knew my family and also knew me. Somehow, he was able to make it work,” Thompson recalled.

So Thompson taught junior high science, math and English while completing his degree. He remained a fixture in the Peterson School District, and later the Rushford-Peterson School District, for more than 35 years.

Thompson’s “give it a try” attitude opened up another door when the music teacher at Peterson High School became ill and was forced to quit teaching. The superintendent asked Thompson if he would consider taking on the music department.

“I had played in the school band and was very interested in music, so I thought ‘why not,’ and I served as the band director for many years too,” Thompson said.

So Thompson went back to college part time, and earned a major in music and also a master’s in education administration. 

During his early years in the education field, Thompson married Sandy Lee, also from the Peterson area, who had been a few years younger than him in school. The first few years of their marriage, they lived in a small house in Peterson.

“We had been married about four years and had two kids when my father asked if we wanted to move out onto the home farm,” Thompson said. Both his father and mother were working in Rochester and felt it would be good for Maynard and his family to be on the family farm. So besides teaching full-time at Peterson, Thompson was also helping run the 160-acre farm.

The music teaching gig also spurred Thompson to immerse himself back into music. He played in the brass section of the Peterson High School band during his high school years. Later on he joined the Winona Brass Band, which he enjoyed for 20 years.

“I quit playing in the Winona Brass Band and joined the Chatfield Brass Band,” Thompson stated. “The Chatfield Brass Band has their concerts in the summer, which I really enjoy. It’s more audience-orientated than the Winona band. We practice during the fall and winter months to get ready for the summer music series. I’m enjoying playing music even more now than when I was a music teacher.”

Beside the Chatfield Brass Band, Thompson and his wife, Sandy, are becoming involved with a brass trio. Sandy, an accomplished pianist, accompanies Maynard and two other musicians. The brass trio, plus Sandy, performed this past June at a church service. They are planning additional gigs in the future.

“It’s just another way for us to remain active,” Thompson pointed out.

Thompson also directed the Peterson All-School Reunion Band during Gammel Dag Fest in June.

“That was incredible,” he said with a big smile. “I had some amazing musicians when I taught in Peterson and it was great to have them come back and put on the concert.”

When asked what his secret is to his youthfulness, Thompson shrugged and replied, “You need to stay in shape, stay active. People need to keep doing the things they enjoy in life. I think that’s what’s kept me going.”