Mildred Elizabeth Tompkins

Mildred E. TompkinsMildred Elizabeth Tompkins, age 95, was called by her angels to be with the Lord on 4/5/15.  Born October 8, 1919, to Frank and Myrtle Mae Schmitt; she spent her early years in Berea, Ohio, near Cleveland.  After graduating high school, Mildred taught tap dancing and was an aspiring model.  As times were tough in the aforementioned careers, she took a clerical position with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which was the forerunner of today’s NASA.  It was there where she met her future, and lifelong husband, Tom R. Tompkins, just out of the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel.  They were married in 1946, and Tom soon took a job with Oldsmobile in Lansing, Michigan, where they moved.  James R. Tompkins, the first of her 3 sons, was born there in 1947, followed by her second son, Tom. R. Tompkins in 1950, and their third son, Daniel A. Tompkins in 1958.   With Tom Sr. providing well for the family, it freed Mildred to awaken and pursue her artistic talents.  Mildred’s creative side probably had a genetic connection to her father who helped decorate and embellish the interiors of many of Cleveland’s landmark buildings.  When they weren’t filling their passports with visas from their journeys around the globe, Mildred and Tom spent quiet time in their summer home which they loved, in beautiful southwest Michigan, in the small town of Colon, in Saint Joseph County.  They spent many a happy summer day at this retreat.  In fact, Mildred spent entire summers there with her sons, as they were on school break.   As Mildred was developing her exceptional talents as a watercolor painting artist, she saw an opportunity to preserve, through her painting, the rapidly disappearing historical landmarks around her.  She was prolific in her creation of a gallery of paintings depicting aspects and elements of the history of Saint Joseph County.  She became active in the Community Historical Society of Colon, where she volunteered and also displayed many of her paintings. But her interest in the Arts was not confined to works she created herself.  In the Lansing area, she was a founder of the Lansing Community Art Gallery.   Later, teamed with her husband Tom, she helped in the efforts to conceive and create the Lansing Center for the Arts.  Mildred was always looking for ways to expand the exposure and appreciation of the arts to a wider audience than just the “art community.”  She fostered the concept within the Center for The Arts for an “Art for Rent” rental gallery, so that individuals and businesses could experience various forms of art in their homes and establishments, without the commitment of a purchase.   The Center for the Arts also included the Boarshead theatre for the performing arts, for which Mildred and Tom were tireless supporters.   Sadly, her partner and soul mate, Tom Sr. passed away in 1993. But Mildred, with the support of family and friends, continued her participation and interest in artistic endeavors.  Not painting so much anymore, she turned her focus on becoming an art and antique dealer.  Working from several booths in the Williamston area, she would buy, sell, collect, and refurbish various articles of antique and artistic interest. Hers was an eclectic collection of paintings, linens, glassware, and jewelry.   But later in life, Mildred became apprenticed, so to speak, to a new good friend and renowned impressionist, Raymond King.  Mr. King, who worked in oils/acrylic, mentored Mildred as she tried this different artistic expression outlet.    A stroke in 2007 was a blow to her physical self, but not to her zest for life and her will to “keep climbing back up the mountain,” as she was often heard to say.    Faced with any setback or challenge, Mildred would just set the bar at or above where she was before, and kept going.   Now in an assisted living setting, Independence Village, Mildred continued to show her work there, and produced greeting card versions of her paintings which she offered at holiday times.  She also continued, on a smaller scale, to offer antiques and collectables during various in-house craft and art shows.  As life gradually became more difficult, she moved to a different setting, The Bickford of Okemos, where more care was available. While there, she participated in their art programs, and frequently “cut a rug” with her son during their community dances, even while confined to a wheelchair.   On March 28, Mildred experienced some combined medical issues that resulted in a hospital stay, and ultimately was transferred to Hospice House.  Mildred was comfortable and peaceful in her final hours, with caring staff, family and friends at her side.  She is survived by her three sons, James (Joanie), Tom (Sally), Daniel (Jody), two nephews, William and Peter, and three grandchildren, Erin, Nicholas, and Elizabeth.  She was preceded in death by her husband, Tom, in 1993.   Funeral services will be held at the Estes-Leadley Holt/Delhi Chapel, 2121 N. Cedar St., Holt Michigan, at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 8.  Visitation will be held at 10:00 am, prior to the funeral services.  Interment will follow at the Lakeside Cemetery in Colon, Michigan, at approximately 2:00 pm.

Memorial contributions may be made in her name to The Lansing Art Gallery, 119 N. Washington Square, Lansing, Michigan 48933 … or to the Community Historical Society of Colon, P. O. Box 136, Colon, Michigan 49040.

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