Edward T. Thompson

Edward T., of North Salem, NY, worldwide editor of Reader’s Digest (RD) in the 1970s and 80s, died with family at his side February 13, 2018 on his 90th birthday.

He created a new and exciting chapter in the history of RD by launching the magazine into serious investigative journalism, expanding the international editions and increasing assignments for original articles. In addition to those from dear friends who were members of his U.S. editorial team, birthday greetings came from friends and colleagues in Australia, France, Japan, India, Canada, Switzerland, South America, and South Africa.

The son of Marguerite Maxam and Edward Kramer Thompson, Ed was born in Milwaukee, WI, on February 13, 1928. Soon after the family moved to New York, Ed was enrolled at the Lawrenceville School. He credits Lawrenceville with teaching him how to think and, next, MIT for teaching him how to share a broken down car with five zany fraternity brothers.  While at MIT, Ed was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

After a brief career in chemical engineering, Ed followed his instincts (and family talent and tradition: his father was managing editor of Life and founding editor of Smithsonian) to the world of journalism, first as a writer for McGraw Hill publications, then Fortune. He joined Reader’s Digest in 1960, where founder DeWitt Wallace chose him to run the magazine in 1976. After leaving the Digest, he was involved in several publishing ventures and was a consultant on projects for Jann Wenner. He served on the Visiting Committee at MIT and several boards.

An accomplished skier, he would rouse his reluctant five children to be first in the lift line at Stratton Mountain. Being an average golfer didn’t stop him from playing challenging courses all over the world, from a par three in Ulundi to Pebble Beach. The helm of the family trawler “Sea Legs” was one of his favorite places, and he loved taking family and friends from Maine to Miami without always paying attention to the Coast Guard weather forecasts. He loved traveling with children and grandchildren, country music, singing and playing guitar with his family, cooking elaborate meals and playing bridge.

When macular degeneration began to diminish his eyesight, this master of the printed world began to listen to recorded books and learned to remain on the computer with the help of Zoom Text — a mixed blessing for those on the receiving end of his joke and photo list.

Most important to Ed was his family: his wife, Susan; brother, Colin R. of Rockville, Maryland; and his five children: Edward T. (Agnes), Cresskill, NJ; Anne B., Bethesda, Maryland; Evan K., Cold Spring, NY; David S. (Carol) Culver City, CA and Julie Robison (Neal), Wallingford, CT. He adored his 12 grandchildren and one great-grand- daughter.