In Memory

Stephen "Steve" Tompkins - Class Of 1968


Message from Class of '68 Representative, Doug Clark

I am passing on the sad news about my FHHS '68 classmate, Steve Tompkins, who passed away this past Friday, November 20th from COVID-19.
Steve had been battling cancer for several years which might have been in remission so I don't know what role that played in his death from COVID-19.
I have copied my classmate, Chris Van Cleave (no relation to Joe Van Cleve), in this email.
Chris and Steve were not only close friends but bandmates in one of the great FHHS bands, The Evening People.  Steve was the drummer for that band. 
Chris can weigh in with more details but perhaps we can get an announcement out - I know there will be people (from multiple classes) who would like to comment. 
- Above is an email from Doug Clark to FHHSAA on November 23rd, 2020
- Our thanks also to Luanne Dawson ('72)  & Jimmy Carmalt ('71) for passing along the news


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11/25/20 09:24 AM #1    

Christopher Van Cleave (1968)

Steve Tompkins is a longtime dear friend, more like a brother to me, and no doubt to many who have known him since way back to our high school days, or earlier.  I'm still grieving from the sad news of his recent passing from COVID19.  Steve had been battling cancer for the past couple of years, receiving chemo treatments, which made him more susceptible to the virus.

About a month ago, I had the idea to set up a Zoom meeting with The Evening People, which we did.  All five of us were present, although Steve was not able to access the video link.  I made sure he was able to be included audibly via his cell phone and using speakers so he could hear and respond to the conversations.  All three of George Patterson's sisters (Elizabeth, Carmelita, and Julie) were able to join us as well.  George jokingly called them "our groupies" ... which they weren't, but they did hear us practice and play many times.  I am so glad we were all able to have that Zoom call together and Steve was very grateful. 

So many memories...Steve and I were in home room together from our sophomore through senior years at FHHS.  He would sit behind me and do vocal drum sounds to which I would sing electric guitar parts to "Little Latin Loopy Lou"  and "Satisfaction".  This was before he had a drum set or my first electric guitar.  Steve's little brother gave me his paper route and with the money I earned from that, I bought my first electric guitar for $49.95.  I had a neck like a baseball bat, was very difficult to play, but it looked kool to me then, and got me on the road with creating music that I am still on over half a century later.

My "real" band days began when Steve and I joined George Patterson (lead guitarist) and Mark Ferguson (organist) after the demise of THE SPYDERS.  We became THE BREAKAWAYS and started playing gigs. When Mark left for college, we recruited organist Greg Javorniski and Fred "Frank" Medico for bass. Frank also sang some of our Motown songs.

Steve got a really good drum kit and became a great drummer. I got a little better on rhythm guitar and sang well enough for a 16 year-old kid, very full of himself. ;-)

I remember Doug Clark booking us for some school gigs when we had morphed from being THE BREAKAWAYS into THE EVENING PEOPLE.  We played a lot of gigs over those 3 years as a band; military bases, fraternity parties, school dances, even underage in DC venues, including a topless go-go club (one of our more indelibly imprinted memories!) 

In our last year at FHHS we had a record deal brewing and were making our first recordings.  But with graduations and moves, Life had other plans for us all...and many other stories.

Half a century later, I am so glad and grateful that we have all stayed in touch. I will miss catch-up calls with Steve, often both of us out on the road.  And of course our reconnecting in person at the FHHS reunions.  I've had plenty of proof that even though we are all passing through this world, our spirit/soul does not die. I believe that Love we share with family and friends is the most valuable treasure in Life and all that we take with us, when all is sung and done.

Shine on dear friend and know you are well loved by all blessed to know you!

Chris Van Cleave



11/25/20 02:53 PM #2    

Joe Gililland (1973)

Chris - Thanks for such a heartfelt tribute to your friend, Steve.  I know you'll miss him, but share some great memories.

11/25/20 03:07 PM #3    

Joe Gililland (1973)

Comment received from George Patterson, FHHS '68 - it was sent to the website email address regarding Steve Tomkins:

From:  George Patterso
For Year:  1968

FHHS Alumni Steve Thompkins passed away 11.20.20. I do not have details of his passing. During his years at FHHS he played in a rock band called the Evening People. Played at many sock hops, and community pool parties. Steve played the drums and was a talented percussionist. Steve’s band was formed with four other FHHS alumni’s who entertained their classmates of the late 60’s.

11/26/20 11:46 AM #4    

Virginia Harper (1968)

Steve--the embodiment of what made '68 so great.  Rest in peace.

11/26/20 12:45 PM #5    

Doug Clark (1968)

Chris: A very nice tribute to Steve.  Not only a great drummer but a great guy who I enjoyed reconnecting with at our reunions in recent years.  Doug Clark

11/27/20 07:51 AM #6    

William Scruggs, Jr. (1968)

I met Steve when I was 11or 12 years old in Stratford Landing.  It was a new neighborhood full of young families and only had about 5 streets. Each street had a group of young boys and we called ourselves gangs by our street names, Londonderry gang, Highgate gang, etc..  Steve's back yard was catty corner to our back yard and with the other houses made huge open area for all of us to play in.  Steve and I became best friends and remained that way.  We went different ways and lived in different places but the friendship bond never wavered.  The adventures, growing pains, adult events of my life all had Steve in them in one way or another. I will always cherish the memories of all the things we did together. He will be missed by all who knew and loved him. Rest in peace Bunky I will miss you.

Billy Scruggs 

11/27/20 09:07 PM #7    

Joe Gililland (1973)

Billy - Great story about Steve and your 'gang' in Stratford Landing.  It's interesting that we had our school friendships & our neighborhood friendships.  It's a great thing when someone can be both.  Thank you for writing.

01/30/21 01:02 AM #8    

George Patterson (1966)


As a member of the bands The Evening People, Black Market, and Breakways, we were fortunate to have Steve in the band as our drummer.  He was a natural on the skins.  He could listen to a song and play the exact syncopation rhythms.  Steve and the band enjoyed many creative years entertaining groups, friends, and our Fort Hunt Federal classmates.   Steve was the "Heart Beat" of the band playing many different genres of music with his cymbals, sticks, and white pearl Ludwigs.  Steve and I became exterior painters one summer white washing windows, ledgers, and porches on apartment buildings.  $1.25 per hour, 40 hour week,  for us teenagers back then, a nice pay check.  The band played sock hops, pool parties, frat parties, fashion shows, military service clubs, block parties, and a very special evening at Gallaudet College a private university for the deaf. Steve and I both agree, it was one of the band's most unique and rewarding experiences we received from the student audience.  When we played the 007 club in DC. it was probably Steve's most challenging gig playing the drums and watching the Go Go Girls at the same.  Together we were a young creative entertaining group and as we each moved in different directions in life, we had forged a strong bond together often having band reunions.  Our last reunion was a Zoom meeting.  I was at Wayland Studios where many instruments are available.  I told Steve there is a drum set here ready for him to play when he comes to California.  He said he hoped to come out someday.  That would have been fun.    George Patterson


02/23/21 09:24 PM #9    

Paige Tompkins (Tompkins)

As you can imagine, these last 3 months have been a huge adjustment for our family. Living life without "Steve" is not something we were prepared for, not yet at least...unfortunately COVID19 had different plans for him. Many know that in 2017 he was diagnosed with colon cancer which was followed by emergency brain surgery on his birthday, and another surgery a few months after removing a large section of his colon to remove the cancer. Radiation, Chemo and many cat scans followed the last few years. This past August the Dr's found that they needed to be more agressive with his chemo and went from 30 min sessions to 4 hour sessions. (I honeslty beleive he keep as much bad news he got from us as he could for the sake of heartbreak)  As you can imagine, the treatments took a toll on his immune system. He had arthritis in his knees which made it hard for him to walk or stand for long periods of time, his back killed him and there were days you could tell he didn't feel well at all, but he never complained about that.. only about all the damn doctors he had to see, as if he had anything better to do since the cancer threw him into retirement in 2017.. which was WELL deserved if you ask me. In October of 2020, I (His Daughter Paige) was tested positive for Covid. Although we did not interact in the time I was "sick", a week later he too was positive. He had no first.. and always said he was "ok". He tested positive on a Monday, and within 5 days he had grown VERY weak. He needed more help then we could give him at home. That Saturday morning he was admitted to the hospital and we stayed in contact with him as much as we were able to. Due to covid there were no visitors allowed, and if you knew him.. you knew he did NOT do the phone thing much. He fought so hard for 13 days, but heaven must have needed him more then we did. He lived for his family anfd friends. There is not one person who did not consider him a best friend. He was an AMAZING MAN and did any and everything for the people he loved. My brother and I could not be more PROUD of the man he was, and the example he set for us. He showed us unconditional love, what being a father means, and supported us no matter what path we chose. I could go on & on about how amazing he was. I'm a Daddy's girl (I still can't say was, because I am still a daddys girl, always will be.)

Although it has taken me months to post on this page, it has been nice to check in and see that so many people loved him just as much as we did. Talking about him in the past tense still has not gotten any easier and I don't see it ever being easy. He left MANY behind who unconditionally loved him just as he did us. We find comfort in knowing all of his pain is gone but selfishly wish he was still here. We do plan to hold a celebration of his life when things are safer to get together, we know everyone would love that. Until then please keep up with the posts of all the memories... I love seeing memories of him. If anyone has pictures/videos we would love to see those! I am on facebook (Paige Poogey Tompkins) and can be contacted directly there.

Thank you all for showing us how much he impacted peoples lives and created some awesome memories that have lasted a lifetime. In due time.... we will get through this. Until then, please stay safe everyone! <3

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