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Spokane, WA — Major Leslie Roger Tompkins, 80, of Spokane, WA, died Monday, Feb. 20, 2023 at Sacred Heart Hospital surrounded by his family.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 18, 2023 at the Ball and Dodd Funeral Home in Spokane, WA.
Memorials may be made to the family for future designation.
Roger was born in the O'Neill hospital on May 12, 1942 to Harvey and Lois Tompkins from Inman. He had an older sister Linelle. He loved to climb and when he was two or three years old he climbed the windcharger tower. His dad talked him down and told him to NEVER climb that again. After supper Linelle came running in to report that he had climbed the windmill. His dad did give him a spanking then but also wisely made a place where Roger could safely climb. We thought that was the beginning of his desire to fly.
Roger grew up on the Tompkins Corners Ranch where he loved being with his dad and Grandpa Leon. He learned how to milk cows, work in the hayfield, swing in the haymow and all the other ranch chores. He also loved making and eating homemade ice cream. He enjoyed watching the birds as his dad taught him their names. He took part in 4-H and MYF. He attended Inman grade school and high school, graduating in 1960. He played whatever sport was in season and was in band, yearbook staff and in the senior play. He also played piano. He received the Babe Ruth Award and was named outstanding athlete. He was valedictorian of his class. He had two younger brothers Allen and Neil.
He then attended Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, graduating in 1964 where he received his undergraduate degree. He was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He received a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma.
Roger had a lifelong love of flying. He received his private pilot's license in college. After graduation he joined the United States Air Force and had Officer's Training School at Medina. He then learned to fly the T-38, graduating fourth in his class at Reese AFB, Lubbock, Texas. He was stationed at Luke AFB, then survival school in the Philippines and on to Bien Hoa AFB in Viet Nam where he flew fighter jets. The day he was to come home the Tet Offensive hit and he barely escaped. He also had some other narrow escapes. He was stationed at various bases in the U.S., Japan and Okinawa functioning as a pilot, Forward Air Controller, pilot instructor, aircraft commander flying the F-100 Super Sabre, T-38 and KC-135. He last was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base where Spokane became home. He earned 16 air medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, Viet Nam Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Small Arms expert marksmanship, Republic of Viet Nam Gallantry Cross and Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Medal. He cherished his time in the military.
Following his retirement from the military he became a pilot for United Airlines, flying DC-10s and 747s throughout the U.S., China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand for 17 years.
He was an avid golfer, racquetball player, hiker, model train enthusiast and water and snow skier. He loved going to lunch with his fellow ROMEOS (retired old men eating out), flowers, birds and wildlife; eating popcorn and watching Hallmark movies, Nebraska football and Gonzaga basketball with family and friends, and giving away watches from his vast collection. He would talk politics or religion with anyone, worked out every day and became a champion shop walker.
Roger and Barbara traveled annually for 38 years to Hawaii, traveled all over Europe, North, Central and South America, Africa, Australia and more. They enjoyed hiking in Canada, Scotland, Switzerland, Germany and Peru in particular.
Roger was a war hero, loving family man and friend, charitable and responsible citizen. He will be greatly missed.
Roger is survived by his wife of 39 years Barbara Switzer Tompkins; one stepson Peter (Mandy) Rogers, one stepdaughter Courtney Rogers; three step-grandchildren Addison, Sophia and Simon Rogers; one sister Linelle (Ned) Kelley of Inman; one brother Neil (Ruth) Tompkins of Inman; and nieces, nephews, great-nieces and -nephews and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents and one brother Allen.
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