Late summer showers slowed the work, but the volunteers promised to return Friday to finish.
Thompson, who grew up in Overtown, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1949 as a senior at Florida A&M University. He served for 21 months in the Korean War, teaching fellow soldiers how to use and clean military weapons, from pistols to machine guns. He returned to Miami, married in 1955 and eventually became a manager at a Kosher food warehouse.
One day, Thompson took a leisurely drive down to Richmond Heights in unincorporated Miami-Dade County. Capt. Frank C. Martin, a white Pan American pilot, had purchased the property that would become Richmond Heights just after World War II and sectioned it off into tracts to give soldiers like Thompson returning from the wars a decent, affordable place to begin the next chapter.
Thompson did just that, saving up about $500 as a down payment for the house on Pierce Street. He purchased it for about $25,000 in 1959 and had a daughter six years later.
The house became the center of the Thompson gatherings as they hosted July Fourth celebrations and family breakfasts. Thompson said he and his wife have aged more gracefully than the house.
Hurricane Andrew ripped the roof off and smashed all the windows, and had its way on the inside, too. Since that storm 20 years ago, Theressia Thompson, 81, has wanted a new kitchen, at least cabinets to replace the originals which were rotted and would no longer close.
On Thursday, the volunteer team finished putting in brand new dark wood cabinets, a sink, countertop and appliances, all stainless steel. “I had been wanting a new kitchen for so long. I even dreamed about it,’’ she said. “In the dream, everything was new. Now I have it and it’s beautiful. Once everything is done, the first thing I am going to do is cook some turnip greens, pork chops and corn bread in my new kitchen.”