Jerry “Crabmeat” Thompson
Jerry “Crabmeat” Thompson (a/k/a “Mr. George” to his international students), an ageless Musician/Teacher/Writer who penned Delaware’s unofficial state song “Small Wonder” and a bilingual children’s coloring book “Stretch Saves the Inland Bays”, left behind his “mortal coil” and departed this world on June 22, 2021 at Select Specialty/St. Francis Hospital, Wilmington, Delaware after making a Herculean effort to recover from lung issues. Crab did “not go gently into that dark night, [but continued to] rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Although a long-time resident of Delaware, two-time Artist Fellowship recipient (DDOA/DSAC), and beloved retired Middletown High School teacher, at heart Crabmeat was a wandering troubadour having called various venues home, most memorably San Francisco/Big Sur/Tahoe, California; Missoula, Montana; and Venice/Chokoloskee/Avon Park, Florida where he played, respectively, at Big Sur River Inn, Top Hat Lounge, Crow’s Nest Restaurant & Marina, Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe, and Wild Turkey Tavern.
Born in Philadelphia while his father was leading Trinidadian troops during World War II, and his mother and aunt were living with their mother awaiting their husbands’ heroic return, Jerry did not meet his father in person until he was two years old. Their trip out West to cowboy country when he was 12 began his life-long love of cowboy songs and remained one of Jerry’s fondest memories of his dad. His early boyhood was blissfully spent in Seattle, Washington swimming in the cold Pacific until a familial move to Wilmington, Delaware. Jerry graduated from Brandywine High School, attending the University of Delaware long enough for his football team to win the 1963 National Championship. However, he did not meet with true scholastic success until he headed to the Midwest attending Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa earning a BA in English with a minor in Spanish in which he became fluent while working a summer construction job and drinking beer with his Mexican amigos. Thence, Jerry continued his studies at Western Illinois University where he earned his MA in English by writing his thesis on Jack Kerouac and commenced teaching.
Although he began his professional life as an English professor, Crabmeat’s wanderlust and obsession with music soon drew him away from the classroom; first to the “House of Wong”/‘70s San Francisco, and, then on the road with The Live Wire Choir, a traveling band home-based in Montana and featured in “Esquire” magazine, a time which has been chronicled in a recently published memoir. When the band broke up, Jerry returned to the East Coast, teaching, and eventually playing music fulltime in Wilmington and at the Delaware-Jersey beaches sandwiching in a brief sojourn in Venice, Florida. Crabmeat moved to Middletown, Delaware in 1994 where he continued playing music as well as teaching English in high school and later at the community college level; and, over the years, he added column-writing, playing children’s gigs, and lecturing at local libraries to his repartee. In 2011, Jerry and his wife Janice began working together tutoring and teaching English as a Second Language to international students often incorporating Crab’s music.
Professional Bio written by Jerry “Crabmeat” Thompson (excerpted/adapted/annotated): “Jerry ‘Crabmeat’ Thompson plays many styles of music and has recorded gobs of sui generis material. He has shared a stage with poet Charles Bukowski, Kate Wolfe, Richie Havens, Tiny Tim, Steve Forbert, and Roscoe the Wonder Horse.”
“For ten years, Crabmeat wrote an award-winning column for ‘Out & About’ magazine. His music has played on Dr. Demento, and he has performed all over North America and in Europe”, Mexico, Spain and Costa Rica. His discography includes “Animals, Vegetables, and Mineral Springs” which was recorded live at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington. One tune “One Ton Tomato” is a Georgia gardening radio show’s theme song. In March 2022, Crabmeat will be inducted into Delaware Rock & Roll Society’s Hall of Fame.
“Both Thompson and his wife Janice teach English as a Second Language at the University of Delaware and in Salamanca and Valdelavilla, Spain. His stories about teaching, ‘Fatima’s Flu Shot’ and ‘Mr. Tanimoto’s Hadji’ appeared in ‘Voices,’ an ESL magazine.”
After meeting 26 years ago, Jerry “Crabmeat” and his “last wife” Janice “Crabcake” began their international traveling, studying, and teaching, respectively, in Italy, Ireland, and Spain. With his constantly “itchy feet”, his “always packed bags”, a guitar strung over one shoulder, and a harmonica stuck in his shirt pocket, Crabmeat’s solo excursions included Kitchener, Ontario; Chiapas and Mexicali, Mexico; and Costa Rica.
With his huge smile, twinkling baby blues, proud baldness, quick wit, devilish sense of humor, and indefatigable energy, Jerry “Crabmeat” lived a BIG life walking through the world in wonderment and seeing no obstacles only opportunities for creating songs, writing, cooking amazing meals, continually learning, and experiencing adventures especially through traveling; but, his greatest love was writing, playing, singing, and most of all performing his songs for an appreciative audience. For those of us lucky enough to have shared his adventures, it has been an unforgettable ride.
Jerry was predeceased by his father and mother, who were college sweethearts at the University of Delaware, George W. Thompson, Sr. and Helen Layton Thompson; father-in-law, Ken Holsinger (PA); brother-in-law, Tom Dyer (CA); former wife, Lisa; and grandson, Milan Loncar (PA).
Crabmeat is tremendously missed but joyously remembered not only by his family, which includes wife, Janice Thompson; daughter, Amy Lounsberry (PA); granddaughter, Jelena Loncar (PA); sister, Joan Thompson Dyer (CA); nephews, Eric, Mark, and Dean Dyer (CA); mother-in-law, Lottie Holsinger (PA); and brother-in-law, David Moist (PA); but also, by generations of students and fans that span the globe from Russia to Saudi Arabia as well as his many US and Canadian friends and musicians who shared a stage or jam session with him.
Janice visited privately with Jerry on Friday, June 25th at Spicer-Mullikin Funeral Home of Middletown. Jerry’s “mortal coil” was cremated on the morning of June 28th.
On Sunday, July 11th at 1:00 pm, a virtual service commemorating and celebrating Jerry’s life will be premiered on Youtube by St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Odessa at www.stpaulsodessa.org
At a future date TBA, a spreading of the ashes and an outdoor barbeque/jam session will take place at Lum’s Pond State Park, a place Crab frequented, felt at peace, and where he interred “Sugar Lips”, his much loved and extremely patient “miniature” golden retriever who rode shotgun in his Cadillac.
Condolences are welcome; however, a remembrance or Crabmeat story would be preferred; these will be collected and made available at the TBA jam session.
They can be sent:
- Via email to [email protected] or
- Snail mailed to Janice Thompson, 482 Brick Mill Road, Middletown, DE 19709
Other ways you could honor Crabmeat:
- Donate to: Guitars for Vets, an organization which uses music to help veterans suffering from PTSD by a) going to guitars4vets.org, then b) dedicating your donation to Crabmeat Thompson, a friend and supporter of Guitars for Vets Chapter 32 – this chapter is managed by his former student Bob Hevner at the VA hospital in Perryville, Maryland;
- Plant some wildflowers, a butterfly bush, or some “Knockout” roses; or,
- Make a space in your day and play, sing, or listen to some music ‘cause that’s what Crab would be doing.
Finally, as Crabmeat would say at the end of his gigs: “support your local musicians” and “don’t forget to generously tip your bartender or waiter/waitress” just before singing “Goodnight Irene”.