Cecil Agnew "Sonny" Thompson Jr., 88, a native and resident of Bay Minette, Alabama, died Nov. 4, 2019, at his home.
After graduating from Baldwin County High School in 1949, Sonny studied drama and music at Auburn University and Bob Jones University.
He served in the medical corps of the United States Air Force during the Korean War and received the National Defense Service Medal.
After his discharge from the service, he married Jimmie Lee Dillard and resided in Windermere, Florida, where he worked as a grower in the citrus industry. A professionally trained actor and singer, he became involved in community theater.
In the 1960s, Sonny moved to New York City where he performed in many theatrical productions both on and off Broadway. His vocals were heard in Miss America and Miss Alabama pageants.
He studied and sang with renowned vocalists and was a soloist with Sammy Kaye's Orchestra, one of the most famous groups of the Big Band Era. During this time he became personal friends with many well-known actors and musicians, including Judy Garland, Diana Ross and Angela Lansbury.
He was the cruise director of the French cruise ship the M.S. Renaissance in the 1970s. Onboard the ship he shared his musical talents and love of entertaining tourists from around the world. He held concerts in European, Caribbean and South American ports and organized receptions for Princess Grace of Monaco and Gen. Charles de Gaulle. He made many lifelong friends during his travels.
The love of family brought him home to Bay Minette where he cared for his mother until her death in 1981. Sonny then took his good taste and eye for design to a new venture in the antiques business and opened the first flea market on the Gulf Coast. He owned stores in Gatlinburg, Spanish Fort and Stapleton, where he sold antiques and estate items.
In later years, Sonny enjoyed a low-key lifestyle on the rivers of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. He was a talented chef, gardener, animal-lover, and had a true gift of hospitality. His home was the setting for many parties and family gatherings over the years.
The youngest of six siblings, he was devoted to his family and his many nieces and nephews.
He was active in the community and was a longtime member of the board of directors of the North Baldwin Infirmary Foundation. In 2019, he was honored as the first recipient of the board's Liz Duryea Distinguished Service Award.
Sonny had a generous spirit evidenced by his many contributions to civic, church and charitable organizations. He had a strong Christian faith and was active in the Stockton Presbyterian Church for many years, where he sang in the choir.
Sonny was preceded in death by his parents, Cecil Agnew Thompson Sr. and Jessie Rawls Lowery Thompson; brother, Albert Marina Thompson II; sisters, Evelyn Thompson Waters, Cecil Thompson Barnhill, Georgia Thompson Gause; nephew, Glenn Thompson Cook; and niece, Toni Thompson Turpen.
He is survived by sister, Joy Imogene Thompson Cook; nephews, Roger Franklin Barnhill Jr., Timothy Lyle Barnhill, Ronald Douglas Waters, Kenneth Lawrence Waters, Albert Marina Thompson III and James Thomas Cook; nieces, Linda Barnhill Ellis, Rosemary Barnhill Kaiser, Joy Waters Sprunger, June Waters Dickman, Laura Waters Almaroad, Georgene Gause Conner, Vicki Ann Thompson and Gale Cook Colvert; and numerous great nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be held on Thursday, Nov. 7, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Stockton Presbyterian Church.
The funeral service will be held on Friday, Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. at Stockton Presbyterian Church, with interment following at the Bay Minette Cemetery.
Pallbearers will be Kevin Lyle Barnhill, Dawson Staley Colvert Jr., Matthew Copeland Cook, Kenton Ray Dorough, David Lowell Harms, Charles Davenport Hudson, Randolph Garth Turpen and Jonathan Vincent Waters.
Honorary pallbearers will be Timothy Lyle Barnhill, Roger Franklin Barnhill Jr., Henry Clinton Conner Jr., James Thomas Cook, Charles Ray Eubanks, Robert Malcolm McMillan Sr., Claude Allen Nix, George E. Robinson Jr., Kenneth Edward Rolison, John Earl Steadham, Clyde Madison Steele, Albert M. Thompson III, Timothy Mark Turpen, Kenneth Lawrence Waters and Ronald Douglas Waters.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the North Baldwin Infirmary Foundation, P.O. Box 1409, Bay Minette, AL 36507, and the North Baldwin Animal Shelter, 1700 McMeans Ave., Bay Minette, AL 36507.
Arrangements by Norris Funeral Home, 402 E. 2nd St., Bay Minette, AL 36507, 251-937-9596. Online condolences at www.norrisfuneralservice.com.