He was working as the advertising manager for a company called Nuclide Industries, which made mass spectrometers - used to "determine the elemental signature of a sample," as it is described - like the hair of a tiger.
The results were published in a magazine, and Jack won an award from the company. All in the line of work for an imaginative advertising man.
Jack Thompson was one of those renaissance characters, interested in everything and good at most.
He was a sculptor, art dealer, interior designer - including three rooms in City Hall and a car dealership in West Chester whose show room was turned into something resembling the palace at Versailles - advertising copywriter, and a history buff who knew more about Chestnut Hill, where he lived, than should have been allowed.
Edward Jackson Thompson Jr., always called Jack, son of a prominent Pennsylvania state senator of the 1930s, died Monday after suffering for many years from inclusion body myositis, a rare autoimmune disease, that left him bedridden for the past 14 years. He was 79.
Jack and his pals the late Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice James T. McDermott and the late Charles P. McLaughlin, McDermott's chief clerk, would drive around Chestnut Hill while Jack pointed out landmarks and sites where prominent people had lived.
"If they found an interesting piece of trash, they would argue over who got the best part of it," Mary Pat said.
"Jack Thompson was the most brilliant man I ever met," said another pal, Jerome A. Zaleski, retired administrative judge of Philadelphia Family Court. "He was a walking encyclopedia of Chestnut Hill history. He was well-read in everything, from religion to mathematics, and he was very humble and humorous."
Back in the late '80s, auto dealer John Stout, who sold the French cars Peugeot and Citroen, took over a former Acme market in West Chester and hired Jack Thompson to design the interior.
Taking his cue from the Palace of Versailles, Jack designed marble floors, Oriental carpets and decorations that included gold leaf. He hired a couple of local vagrants and taught them how to apply gold leaf.
After the dealership closed, it was taken over by a motorcycle dealer who painted over all the decorations.
Jack was born and raised in Philipsburg, Pa., where his father was a political leader. His mother was the former Harriet Barker.
He graduated from Haverford College and went on to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he was influenced by a teacher, the late Walker Hancock, a prominent sculptor. He studied sculpture and the history of art.
He later opened an art gallery, Panama Galleries, at 20th and Panama streets in Center City, where he featured the works of local artists.
Jack designed the interiors of rooms at City Hall, including Justice McDermott's quarters.
He shared his work room there with a homeless man who just wandered in and made himself at home.
In the '70s, Jack was hired by the Rev. Leonard L. Smalls to design what became the Martin Luther King Memorial Garden on a tract next to Smalls' church, 59th Street Baptist. It features a statue of King delivering his "I Have a Dream" speech by a local sculptor.
Jack bought artworks from artists in Philadelphia and New York and tried to sell them at various venues, including the old Garden State race track and Resorts casino in Atlantic City.
He also worked for a Philadelphia adverting agency, the Lavinson Bureau of Advertising in Center City, writing copy.
When Jack's father's health began to decline, he and his wife moved to Philipsburg to care for him. They lived in a log house at Bald Eagle Mountain. His father died in 1964, and Jack and his wife moved back to Philadelphia.
Mary Pat described Jack as "a quietly spiritual man." His ancestors were Quakers and Jack became a Methodist before converting to Catholicism.
When stricken with the paralyzing disease, Jack remained cheerful and never complained, his wife said.
"He had wonderful vivid dreams in which he was walking and doing things he loved to do," his wife said. "They might have been God's way of compensating for his affliction."
Jack loved poetry and could quote long passages from Tennyson, Kipling, Shelley and other classical poets. His own poetry tended to the doggerel, his wife said.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, John; a sister, Bertha Thompson; and three grandchildren.
Services: Funeral Mass 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at Our Mother of Consolation Church, 9 E. Chestnut Hill Ave. Friends may call at 9:30. Burial will be in St. Ann's Cemetery, Freeland, Pa.