Founder of German/American Student Exchange

Published December 27, 2018

NORTH READING — Kenneth Edmund Thomson of North Reading died December 20, 2018 at the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers after a long illness.

He was born in New York City on October 9, 1936. He was a graduate of Plainfield High School in Plainfield, New Jersey and Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. He also attended the University of Connecticut, the University of Munich (Germany), Tufts University and the University of New Hampshire. He studied electrical engineering and classical and modern languages. His interest in linguistics extended throughout his life.

His 40-year career as a modern language teacher included positions at the Dublin School in New Hampshire and at Wakefield Memorial High School. In 1971, he was awarded a one-year Fulbright Teacher Exchange with Furtwangen, Germany. When he returned to Wakefield Memorial High School, he founded a German/American Student Exchange between Wakefield High School and the Grenzach Gymnasium in Germany. He also served as President of the Wakefield Teachers Association and retired from the Wakefield school system after 36 years of service.

An active cyclist, he was a member of the CCB bicycle club for many years. His skill as a cyclist included establishing a bike repair shop to service the bicycles of friends. He provided bike equipment, safety inspection and maintenance for the Phillips Andover Bicycle Teams. He coached his daughter Jennifer in her racing career through high school and college. He also taught bicycle repair at “Bikes Not Bombs.”

Ken was a skilled woodworker who designed and built beds, desks, bureaus, chairs, lamps and toys for family and friends. He also collected antique thumb back and bow back Windsor chairs. Oil painting and guitar playing rounded out his creative side.

He leaves his wife of 55 years, Beth (Hubley), his daughter, Jennifer, her husband, Shakil, and grandsons, Khalil and Kaden of Brooklyn, N.Y. His son, Joshua, resides in Berlin, Germany. His sister, Marian, and her husband Peter Cain, live in Wilmington, Mass., and his nephew, Joel Cain, in Sparta, N.J. He was predeceased by his mother, Alvina (Breithaupt) and father, Howard M. Thomson.

Ken donated his body to Tufts Medical School to further the education of medical students. His life will be remembered in a private reception at the convenience of the family.

Donations in his memory may be made to Bikes Not Bombs, 18 Bartlett Square, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 or at A donation for Kaplan Family Hospice House may be made to: Care Dimensions, 75 Sylvan St., Suite B-102, Danvers, MA 01923 or