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A memory to grow on
Brenaus child care center hopes to improve its playground in memory of Ione Thompson
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Teachers at the Brenau University Child Development Center hope to expand their meager playground. Recent rain has forced teachers like Stephanie Clark to keep students busy inside, including Dariean Briell, left, and Peyton Goss. - photo by Tom Reed

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Bill Ware, retired dean of Brenau University’s College of Education, humorously recalls Ione Thompson’s penchant for never throwing away anything.

GAINESVILLE — Ione Thompson died Nov. 28, but her spirit lives on at Brenau University’s Child Development Center.

More than just remembering her charm, grace and her love for children at the center, child care center workers and parents are coordinating an effort in Thompson’s honor to improve the center’s meager playground.

Director Beverly Nordholz, who is in her first year on the job after serving as the longtime secretary at Gainesville High School, would like to see a tiered, rubberized surface for the area, as well as new equipment.

An improved playground "was one of the things she wanted people to make donations to in her memory," Nordholz said. "Several of our parents are spearheading (the project)."

Thompson, 88, arrived at Brenau in 1969 as the college’s postmistress and went on to work at the center after it opened in August 1973 — still remaining for a while as postmistress.

Thompson endeared herself to students and faculty on campus.

"She knew everything there was to know about this school," Nordholz said. "She told me everything there was to know in the first week I was here."

Nordholz said she didn’t know Thompson before she arrived at the school.

"Every day, we would go for about an hour walk (and) she would show me different things on campus and introduce me to everybody," she said.

Thompson also had a feisty side.

"The first day I walked in she said, ‘This is my office and that’s yours,’" Nordholz said. "But she treated me like a daughter."

Bill Ware, who retired last year as Brenau’s College of Education dean, said Thompson wasn’t shy with her opinions.

"You never had to ask her what she thought and you never left wondering what she was thinking," he said. "But once a decision was made, she was a trooper. She was there."

Technology "was not her thing," he said, continuing to recall his friend. "Don’t threaten her with a computer, but she would smoke that (typewriter)."

Her work area, in fact, looks pretty much the same way she left it, which was up to the time of her passing.

Ware said Thompson was "terribly loyal" to Brenau.

Nordholz said that, before her passing, Thompson dismissed the idea of a newspaper feature about her. "Maybe when I retire," Thompson said.

Thompson came to work the day of her diagnosis with cancer on Oct. 18.

"She came back here and sat down on that sofa and we talked about it for a long time," Nordholz said, pointing to the couch in her office.

Then, Thompson returned to work as normal.

Children came up to her and said, "Miss Ione, swing me, swing me," Nordholz said. "And she would take them in her arms and swing them between her legs."

Many children visited Thompson at her home in the weeks before her death.

"She said she wanted them to come and she left the carport door open," Nordholz said. "She really wanted the children to come, because she loved them so much."

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