Obituary: Alice S. Thompson, 72

Alice was a fixture behind the counter at Briarbrook Farm – "the stand" – her family's garden store on South County Trail.

If you bought plants or pies or fresh corn at Briarbrook Farm, you knew Alice Thompson. She was the woman behind the counter wearing the big smile and the glamorous hairdo. 

Alice died Monday, at age 72.

The daughter of Hilda B. (Holroyd) Thompson and the late Lewis Thompson, Alice was born in Providence but raised in East Greenwich. She graduated from EG High School in 1958.

Alice was a flight attendant for American Airlines in the early 1960s. A sudden illness – spinal meningitis – halted her career but she joined her family, working at Briarbrook for the next 47 years. 

According to her sister, Nanci, Alice was diagnosed last March with a very rare form of Parkinson’s disease – cortical basal ganglionic degeneration (CBGD). She was unable to work this past season as the disease quickly began limiting her movements and speech.

"My brothers Jerry and Dean placed a book for customers and friends to sign and wish her well at the stand," Nanci said via email.

"Everyone in the family refers to the business as 'the stand' – as many customers came to know. This originated with my Mom and Dad because, when they first started out, there was no building – just a simply-made outdoor wood stand that my dad built to put fruits and vegetables on that he grew in the fields – and sold to folks passing by on Route 2."

That one book for Alice turned into several books, "each one filled up in a short period of time with kind words and good wishes from hundreds and hundreds of customers," said Nanci.

She continued:

"Every day or so, the book would be brought up to the house so Alice could read the new entries. She loved and appreciated each and every word. My sister LOVED people. My dad used to say that she could carry on a conversation with an ant. She would find the time to chat away with customers – offering gardening advice, accessing the condition of a poor-looking plant brought in (she’d say “stop watering it to much – you are drowning the poor thing!”) while really getting to know the people.

"My sister had an uncanny knack at remembering people’s names ... their spouses names, kids, pets. Alice loved all of God’s creations. Dogs, birds, cats.

"I remember years ago she came home with a litter of baby raccoons found by the side of the road – their mom had been run over by a motorist – she fed them with eye droppers, and took care of them.

"Work at the stand was not a job to Alice it was, well, her life. The business closes every year after Christmas and reopens just before Easter. Alice enjoyed many tropical vacations over the years to pass the time until spring. By the end of February, she was restless and couldn’t wait til spring to get back to work.

"She happily worked in the soil with plants in the spring (never without her gold jewelry, perfect hair, and of course lipstick!).

"Christmastime means the wreath-making operation. Boxwood wreaths made to order created by Alice, she always made sure it was perfect – bow in the right position – before any were allowed to leave the premises. She had the best and most genuine smile.

"She loved and cherished her family, friends, pets, customers, and was a fierce and loyal friend, generous and genuine.

"A famous quote by William Butler Yeats sums up Alice’s attitude with life and people: 'There are no strangers here. Only friends you haven’t met yet.' That is the way she lived. Never judgmental – accepting people for who they were. A sampler that hangs in her kitchen also sums it up: 'Let Me Live In A House By The Side Of The Road And Be A Friend To Man.' That is exactly what she did. She will be sorely missed – but her strong spirit will live within us always."

Besides her mother she is survived by three brothers: Gerald L., Brian L., and Dean A. Thompson; and a sister, Nancy R. Thompson. A private funeral will be held at her request. Calling hours Wednesday, Dec. 19, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Hill Funeral Home, 822 Main St.

Heather Larkin December 18, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Such a nice woman! She made a racy tomato joke once that made me laugh for days... RIP Alice.
Paula Malm December 19, 2012 at 01:54 AM
So sorry to hear of Alice's passing. Would stop by often to buy sweet corn and was always greeted with a smile....she will be missed!
Betsy Shimberg December 19, 2012 at 02:47 AM
So sorry to hear this sad news. Alice always made me laugh while commiserating with me about fending off the groundhogs and deer.
Laura Howe December 19, 2012 at 03:00 AM
I'm so sorry to hear of Alice's passing. I grew up in the neighborhood across the street from Briarbrook and I remember Alice when I was a child. She had a little dog...Simon, I think his name was, and pet birds at her house. I remember her loving animals. She was a very nice lady and my sympathies go to her family.
David Osborne December 19, 2012 at 04:09 AM
What a magnificent lady she was! I go every spring to get tomatoes and other veggie plants, but mostly for her good cheer and to hear her describe just how amazing their Brandywine tomatoes will be!
HillResident December 19, 2012 at 08:31 PM
I'm so sorry to hear this, what a wonderful little "stand" her family runs, I know she will be dearly missed.
Michele December 20, 2012 at 06:31 AM
Very sorry to hear this sad news. You were always sure to get a friendly smile and chat with Alice when you went into Briarbrook. Alice was and will be sadly missed.
Chris P. December 22, 2012 at 04:45 AM
Alice would always ask how my family was when I stopped to get Briarbrook corn. Still the best corn in the state. This past summer her brother told me that she could not work and she was in a wheelchair. I signed the book and hoped she would recover. Briarbrook Farms will never be the same. Goodbye Alice and thank you.
Susan Rigby May 15, 2013 at 11:57 AM
I am so very sorry for your loss. I loved chatting with her when I visited. she will be missed.


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