In the midst of the 159-day Finch Pruyn strike in 2001, I remember being with Maury Thompson in downtown Glens Falls where union workers paraded down Glen Street protesting the company’s contract offer.
As we stood on the sidewalk, several workers hurled insults at Maury with a litany of four-letter words not suitable for any family newspaper.
Maury never flinched.
I think that was the last time I ever heard anyone say something bad about him.
When I became editor of The Post-Star in January 1999, I noticed Maury was one of our most prolific writers, and he wasn’t even on our staff. He was a freelance writer.
As our Ticonderoga correspondent, he was everywhere in Essex County.
He was being paid by the story and making a living. You have to write a lot of stories to make that work.
I asked our then regional editor, Bob Condon, if he thought Maury would be open to becoming a full-time reporter based in Glens Falls.
Bob thought it was a great idea, but he told me I needed to know that Maury could not drive. His eyesight was limited and he did not have a driver’s license.
I’ll always remember what Bob said next: He told me it never prevented Maury from getting where he needed to go to write the story.
We hired Maury as a full-time business writer, and he eventually became our reporter covering Glens Falls and then Queensbury.
That was 18 years ago, and on Friday, Maury Thompson officially retired from The Post-Star.
On Thursday, someone asked me how you replace someone like Maury Thompson.
“You don’t,” I replied.
It is a loss for the newspaper and the community.
Maury did his reporting the old-fashioned way by walking his beat. He was a fixture around the city as he walked from home to the newspaper, to City Hall and back again.
No mailman in Glens Falls had anything on Maury Thompson.
Over the years, Maury showed his range as a writer and reporter. Most people remember him for his government and political coverage. When Sen. Chuck Schumer came to town — as he often has in recent years — he often singled out Maury for a greeting before speaking. People knew Maury and Maury knew them.
Over the years, Maury proved he could do any type of story, but where I think he truly excelled was when he took on a big project.
In 2006, we learned that Maury had gotten permission to follow a man named Ken Ball, who was terminally ill and in his final days of hospice at St. Joseph’s House of Grace in Glens Falls. It was the type of story few reporters would want to tackle.
Consider these words from that story:
“Ken Ball taught me death doesn’t have to be an ugly thing. I began this writing project expecting to chronicle the musings of a man grappling with fate. But Ken dealt with the uncertainly of death the way a parent deals with a child who is afraid of the dark. He turned a night light on, so to speak. Once the shadows were gone, the room wasn’t such a scary place after all.”
Four years later, Maury turned his attention to the 55 young men from around the region who gave their lives in the Vietnam War. The series was called “The 55.”
He not only told their stories, but the bigger story of how the war affected this community.
What was so rare was that Maury did his work quietly, without controversy or animosity from any of his sources, at least not any I heard from.
Earlier this month, the city of Glens Falls issued a proclamation proclaiming it Maury Thompson Day in Glens Falls, and he received a rousing ovation from the mayor, Common Council and all those in attendance.
It is rare that a reporter receives public applause these days, and even rarer to be honored by a government body you cover. I wished that the people who scream about “fake news” could have been at that event and witnessed the mutual respect between professionals.
Maury isn’t done by any means. He steps away from his job here at the newspaper so he can pursue the historical research he loves and write books.
We wish him well and are thankful he passed our way.