In Our Care

John Joseph Thompson, aged 68, of Arlington passed away peacefully on January 28th in hospice care with the love of his life Cindy at his side after a brief but courageous battle with cancer.

John was born and raised in Somerville, Massachusetts and was the son of the late Joan
(Burlamachi) and Donald Thompson. The only boy of the family, he was a loving little brother to
Susan (Brearley) and Joan (Wagstaff) and devoted big brother to Karen (Mastropietro). He was
affectionately known as Johnny by his family.
After graduating high school, John went to work as a copy boy for the Boston Herald, where he
was mentored by his brother-in-law, Dennis Brearley and was later proudly promoted to staff
photographer in 1977. In 1979, the staff photographers of the Boston Herald were awarded a Pulitzer Prize in feature photography for their coverage of the Blizzard of 1978. John’s young
life would change shortly after that.

On May 1st 1979 when leaving for work, John’s car would not start. It was a beautiful May
morning and he decided to ride his motorcycle to work that fateful day instead. Tragically John
was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle to the job he loved at The Herald. His life would be
forever changed. Just days before his accident he had learned he was to receive the Edward
Ramsdell trophy for the best spot news photo of the year. He was the youngest recipient of the
40 year-old award. He was just 24 years old at the time of his accident.

After his accident, John spent the next 7 months in rehab where he worked hard but, as John
would tell you “I always enjoyed a good challenge.” With hard work he taught himself how to be independent and he spent the next 43 years continuing to work on learning to be
independent. At age 30, John decided to go on to college and was quite successful. He received
an Associates in Liberal Arts from Middlesex Community College with a certificate in Paralegal
Studies. He then went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Political Science where he made
the Dean’s list at UMass Lowell followed by a Master’s Degree in Education at UMass Lowell. He
was the recipient of UMass Lowell Lifetime Achievement Award. John was the first person in his family to hold a college degree, an accomplishment he was very proud of.

After college John went on to teach in a variety of settings; an alternative high school, an inner
city high school and a tutoring center. In 1998 he found his calling at Prospect Hill Academy
Charter School where he stayed for the next 20 years until his retirement. He was awarded the
Faculty Spotlight Award in 2009. John loved the students and faculty at PHA and he loved
bringing his service dogs to work with him. He said Prospect Hill Academy would always be a
part of him.

John loved his service dogs Rangeley, Wexler, and most recently Oakland. His service dogs
allowed him to be as independent as possible which was so important to him. John worked
closely with Canine Companions and his service dogs traveled all over the world with him and Cindy. You could often see photos of his service dog on the cruises John and Cindy went on.
Each service dog had his own personality but each was so special to John and a cherished family

John was a go-getter. He was a thrill seeker and always up for an adventure. His disability didn’t
stop him. He loved to sit ski and was a proud member of the New England Handicapped
Sportsman Association at Mount Sunapee where he sat on the Board of Directors. He skied all
over the world with his Uncle Tom (Gruff), his niece and nephews, including all of New England,
Colorado, British Columbia, France and Italy. John learned how to scuba dive with the Moray
Wheels and traveled to many exotic places to dive and snorkel. He went on to become the Vice
President of the Moray Wheels Adaptive Scuba Association. He competed in many road races
and 6 marathons, including 2 in Boston, in a custom-made wheelchair. John may have been
dealt a tough hand but he sure did play the heck out of the cards he was dealt.

John is survived by his loving wife of 24 years, Cindy Allery and their son, Lee and his wife
Stephanie Allery. He was also Grumpy to his granddaughter Isla and grandson River. John
always said “they make my life positive and possible”. He is also survived by his service dog
Oakland, his 3 sisters, Susan Brearley & Tony Favaloro, Joan Wagstaff and her husband Bernie,
Karen Mastropietro and her husband Ronald, one niece, many nephews, and cousins. He was
predeceased in death by his parents Joan and Donald Thompson, many aunts and uncles and by
his skiing partner and uncle Tom Burlamachi, with whom he had a close relationship.

John was passionate about volunteerism. Without the help of volunteers, John would not have
been able to have the experiences that made his life so rich and allow those with disabilities the
opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable. He was quick to acknowledge and express
this. In an essay John wrote he emphasized how important it was to him: “Please, if you have
the time, volunteer to help someone somewhere doing something awesome that they wouldn’t
or couldn’t do without your help. You’ll have fun and feel good, too. We all have talents to

As John always said, “I tell people I was given 2 lives, one before my accident and one after.
Both have been filled with challenges, rewards and adventures. I don’t regret anything.”
We could all take a page out of John Thompson’s book. He was an inspiration to all that were
lucky enough to have known and loved him.
Love you Johnny, we hope you are running around heaven on your new legs!

Services are private, at the request of the family.