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MANCHESTER — George Thompson and Marilyn Thompson Scarlotta were grown-ups — he was 30, she was 35 — when their father, Manchester Police Chief Dana L. Thompson, was taken from them in an act of violence that remains as shocking 50 years later as it did the night it happened.

Thompson and Scarlotta were among Dana and Hilda Thompson’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who gathered Monday morning at Factory Point Cemetery, as the Manchester Police Department honored their father’s sacrifice in the line of duty.

Thompson, 61, was fatally shot the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1972, while responding to an armed robbery at the former Whipple Pharmacy on Main Street. Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park was named in his honor, and tributes to him can be found at the Park House and in the Manchester Police Department.

“I still break up sometimes,” Scarlotta said of processing the grief. “It takes years. I thought I was over it … you never are.”

The siblings appreciated that the department took the time to come to the cemetery, set a wreath at their father’s gravestone and remember the sacrifice he made for the community he loved.

“It’s heartwarming that they still remember him and honor him, his sacrifice,” Scarlotta said. “It really makes me happy. Fifty years is a long time. I couldn’t believe it when I realized it was 50 years.”

Part of the family lives on in other ways.

George Thompson, now 80, lives in West Charlestown, on Echo Lake. “Right on the property where I helped him build a camp,” he said Monday. “He was going to retire there. That was his plan. I’m kind of living his dream.”

The department’s officers drove into Factory Point Cemetery at about 11 a.m., without lights or sirens. Quietly, they formed ranks behind Police Chief Patrick J. Owens and three of the department’s former chiefs — Michael Hall, James Baker and Manfred Wessner — and walked to the plot where Dana and Hilda Thompson have their final resting place.

The chiefs placed a wreath at Thompson’s gravestone and paused for a moment of silence.

Wessner noted that three weeks before the shooting, Thompson had helped Edward M. Battick — the man who fatally shot him, and pleaded guilty to a charge of first degree murder a year later — with difficulties Battick was having with his driver’s license.

“He was always willing to forgive people and overlook bad conduct,” Wessner, who became chief after Thompson’s death, said of him. “He was what we used to call a peace officer. He tried to help people any way he could.”

Former Select Board member Wayne Bell led the service and offered prayers for those who support their communities by protecting them. He said it’s fitting that Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, which is enjoyed by so many residents every day, bears his name.

“May Chief Thompson and all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice rest in peace,” Bell said.

Two of Thompson’s daughters — Betty Townsend, of Stewartstown, N.H., and Alice Ashley, of Arizona — were unable to attend. A son, John F. Thompson, of Arlington, died in 2021.

Scarlotta said her father was an avid fisherman. “[He] and Larry Wilcox used to go on fishing trips to New Brunswick — salmon fishing,” she recalled.

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In the years after Thompson’s death, his widow, Hilda Thompson, married Larry Wilcox. “They’d been friends for years and years. They kind of took care of each other,” Scarlotta said.

Select Board Vice Chairman Greg Cutler said that, like many who weren’t residents 50 years ago, he didn’t know the story until after he moved here — and that he was shocked and saddened to learn the details. He pointed to a Journal article from 2017, which he said told “a story of enduring loss and mourning … it’s also a story of forgiveness and resilience.”

“A town, like all of us, can endure setbacks and injury. But often they leave scars. Some of the scars are external and visible, and some are internal and invisible. Some fade over time,” Cutler said. “The loss of Chief Thompson is a scar that will never fade.”

But violence that caused Thompson’s death, “every time we look at it, we are reminded of a dedicated police chief and great citizen servant in our town’s history,” Cutler said. “Chief Thompson was beloved, and he will be remembered, here in Manchester and beyond, forever.”

The funeral for Thompson was held three days after he died, on Dec. 15, 1972, at First Congregational Church. Flags flew at half-staff, and many businesses closed for hours.

Then-Town Manager Oakley Porter said in his eulogy that Thompson would be remembered “not for the big things he might have accomplished had he lived, but for the many small, good things he has already done.”

“He tried not to judge a person by the way he wore his hair or his clothes, but tried to search out the inner man,” Porter said. “Dana loved people, and was loved by many people.”

An estimated 1,000 people, including 400 police officers, attended the funeral, and the crowd spilled out onto the church’s front lawn.

Mary “Toni” Roberts, one of Thompson’s grandchildren, was 13 years old at the time, and remembers that the procession winded through Manchester Village until it came to the church for the funeral.

“There were police officers from all over the area,” she recalled. “I remember standing there by the Equinox and the church — there were tons of people. It was so overwhelming.”

Battick stood trial for first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty before the trial ended. He was sentenced to life in prison. His accomplice, Brian O’Keefe, had earlier pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter.

During his time behind bars, Battick wrote apology letters to Hilda Thompson, made furniture for the handicapped and earned his college degree.

In 1983, he was moved to a minimum security facility in Windsor for good behavior. But in 1988, corrections officers found that he had been plotting to escape. He was relocated to a medium security facility in St. Albans, where he was later placed in solitary confinement.

On April 1, 1989, Battick hanged himself in his prison cell. He was 42.

“I’ve regretted not going over to see him,” Hilda Thompson said in 1997. “I’ve forgiven him. I’m a Christian woman, and I do forgive.”

Reach Greg Sukiennik at or at 802-447-7567, ext. 119.


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