Fort Smith High School
Dana Thompson

Wow, it’s so much fun to read everyone’s bio and it’s great that so many people took the time and effort to send something in. It’s a challenge for me to reveal myself on paper but here goes.

After graduation, I “went east” to school to Vassar College in NY. I started off as pre-med because my father (Dr. Ken Thompson) was always such an inspiration to me, but then I encountered organic chemistry! I guess having the high school coach teach me beginning chemistry wasn’t enough preparation for the real thing, as I actually got an F. So, time to party, and switch to something more fun–drama. I guess my mother’s genes were dominant. Anyway, college was great and I met my first husband, Lanse Brown, during my sophomore year. We married and moved to New York City, where I got involved in the fashion industry. I worked as a buyer of small leather goods while I finished my bachelor’s degree at Columbia University. We lived in Harlem during a time of Civil Rights demonstrations. I loved that city and the excitement of it all.

Then I became a suburban mom, living on Long Island, and then in New Jersey, raising 2 sons and competing in Retriever Field Trials with my Labradors. I spent lots of time training dogs and several of them became record-setting field trial champions. My husband tired of Wall Street and thought it might be a good idea to buy a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kalispell, MT. Because I love the outdoors, I agreed and the 4 of us enjoyed skiing and hiking and working the dogs, even through long winters. In spite of our shared activities, Lanse’s alcoholism took its toll on our marriage and we divorced in 1976.

Now I was a single mom who needed to find an occupation where I could be around my sons and still make a living. Success as an amateur dog trainer naturally led me into the professional dog training business. I moved to the Sacramento area and had a profitable kennel operation. My clients were wonderful and the dogs rewarding and one of my clients, Grady Istre, became my assistant, and then my husband. Grady is a really remarkable guy–a Cajun from Rayne, LA. I developed skin cancer (not the bad kind) and had to give up being outdoors all day every day. So, Grady took over my business and he’s now a well-known trainer of hunting dogs and columnist for Western Outdoors News.

For years, we had vacationed in Santa Barbara and loved that area. So, Jill’s husband, Pody Harper, suggested we all move there and do some real estate development together. We actually did all that. I got my real estate broker’s license and decided to be on my own, working for Pitts & Bachmann Realtors in Santa Barbara, and that’s what I continue to do today. Grady and I live “out in the sticks” just north of Santa Barbara where we have the kennel and are surrounded by all the beautiful country shown in the movie, “Sideways.” Lots of vineyards, horses, and great hiking trails. My office is in the chic Montecito area of SB and I love my work.

As for hobbies etc., I find time for adventure travel once a year. Faraway places are magnetic and my curiosity about other peoples and customs has led to many exciting experiences. Trekking in Nepal, hiking the Cinque Terre, and this May going to Macchu Picchu in Peru. Grady doesn’t always go because he likes city lights–Paris, Las Vegas, New York. He says Cajuns like bright and shiny things.

My sons are grown and living nearby. Barney is a musician and part-time contractor’s assistant; Reichert is an HVAC contractor and surfer. Both are currently unmarried, so no grandkids yet.

My two sisters, Jill Thompson Harper and Kay Thompson Lee are my best friends, I belong to quite a few organizations, play Mah Jongg every week, and can’t believe my 50th high school reunion is imminent. I don’t really feel old, do you? Because Santa Barbara is such a vacation destination, I’d love for anyone to look me up when you come out here. I have many great memories of the high school years.

Dana "Thompson" Istre - 2005