Lester S. Thomsen, in an undated photo, on the porch of the house on Kearney Street where he lived a few years back.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CENTRALIA – The B Street area is in mourning.
Mourning for a man said to have been born 65 years ago in the Centralia Hospital.
An early riser, who’d given up on driving, but rarely stayed home.
Duane Thornton said it was about a year and a half ago that Lester Thomsen asked if he could rent a room at his house on Crescent Avenue. Thomsen had been living around the corner with the neighbors on Kearney Street, but they got tired of his drinking, he said.
Thomsen had a bicycle, and he rode the bus.
He did a lot of visiting, Thornton said.
“He would go hang out at the depot, at Wal-Mart, he’d go to the senior citizen’s place, the Salvation Army; he did all that stuff,” Thornton said. “And he was a big man. His hands were twice the size of mine.”
Thornton yesterday was trying to figure out where Thomsen was headed, or what he was doing walking on the railroad tracks just a few blocks south of home.
“We don’t know exactly what happened,” he said.
Police say it was just before 11:30 a.m. on Thursday when a southbound passenger train coming into the station was trying to slow, hitting the horn for the man walking with his back to the train.
The engineer said the man looked over his shoulder and began to leave the track at an angle, instead of just jumping off it directly sideways, according to police.
“This morning was the first morning I didn’t hear Les stumbling around the house making coffee,” Thornton said. “And he always wanted a coffee royal, just a splash of whiskey.”
He was one smart man, with a heart of gold, he said.
The two of them were 10 years apart, but both used to be loggers, so they were really tight, he said.
Thornton assumed his older roommate had ridden his bike to the train depot, to catch the city bus to Wal-Mart, he said. But he didn’t keep tabs on him on his daily outings.
“He’d say, ‘I’m going to go check out the lay of the land’,” Thornton said. “Or, ‘I’m going to go whoring around’. He loved to say that.”
On Kearney Street, James and Corrie Aker offered comfort to Thomsen’s grown son.
James Aker said Thomsen in his last years had lived in three different houses in the neighborhood he called the B Street area, just west of the railroad tracks at the north end of town.
Back in the day, James Aker said, Thomsen had a nice house with property on a hill in town.
“He went into the Army, because he got caught moonshining,” Corrie Aker said. “He told me that story 100,000 times.”
Thomsen was proud of his past as a diesel mechanic and a logger, she said.
Thirty-two-year-old Thomas Simpson sat in the Aker’s living room, petting his black lab and absorbing the loss of his father.
“Walking on the tracks,” Simpson exclaimed. “Why would you walk on the tracks, especially if you can’t hear?”
Simpson was angry, mad at the coroner who wouldn’t let him see his dad, he said.
Corrie Aker dug out a photo she’d taken one summer when Thomsen had recently moved in with them, he and her husband sitting on their front porch playing cribbage.
She said she’d known Thomsen probably four years, and his son should try to remember him him the way he looked in the photo.
He had a lot of friends everywhere, Corrie Aker said.
“And he could ride his bike straight as an arrow on rum,” she said.
Yeah, someone repeated, he could ride his bike straight as an arrow on rum.
CORRECTION: This news story has been updated to correct the spelling of Lester Stephen Thomsen’s last name.
For background, read “Man fatally struck by train in Centralia” from Thursday April 2, 2015, here