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Tompkins' Grandson Recalls Happier Times

July 18, 2002

Richard Tompkins Jr. had a lot to live for and a family that loved and appreciated him. And until Dec. 12, he was also doing fine healthwise.

"He'd gotten a checkup at the doctor's, the first week of December, and the doctor said he was healthier than me," said Tompkins' grandson, Darren Davis, 38, of Fairfax. "He was excited about Christmas. His 83rd birthday was the day after Christmas, and we'd planned a big party for him."

But Tompkins suffered a stroke Dec. 12 and was admitted to ManorCare nursing home in Fair Oaks, Dec. 27, for physical rehabilitation. Davis is now suing ManorCare for alleged improper treatment leading to his grandfather's death, Jan. 13.

Besides believing Tompkins' death was needless, he's saddened because, prior to his stroke, he was a vital and active person. Before retiring, he was a printer for the federal government. After his wife's death, he moved in with Davis' mother (his daughter Donna) in Fairfax Station.

He was also close to his other two daughters, Almarie Lucas and Linda Tompkins, and helped run the family business, Davis Maintenance Service Inc. "He owned a cabin in West Virginia and would take us there when we were young," said Davis. "He took me fishing for my first time."

And even at 83, Tompkins' mind was still sharp as a tack. "He could remember integration of the [Washington], D.C., schools," said Davis. "It was amazing how he could remember the smallest details from years ago."

Until last summer, he still drove a car. "My grandfather thought he was 25," said Davis. "He helped out the neighbors with driving and drove himself to I-Hop every day. They knew what he wanted when he came in the door." A sociable person, Tompkins also enjoyed chatting with people at the nearby Denney's or at his local 7-Eleven.

"He knew everyone," said Davis. "And he'd walk in the back yard and up and down the driveway and go out walking with the housekeeper to visit and chat with the neighbors." Even when he first went to ManorCare, said Davis, "He was a ladies' man, joking with the nurses."

Davis' father died in October at age 59 so, he said, "It's been rough on my mom. She lost her husband and her father, 2 1/2 months apart." Attorney Grace Burke Carroll, representing Davis legally, said ManorCare records show staff hadn't seen Tompkins for eight hours before 911 was called: "He was an old man, was paralyzed and couldn't breathe — that's atrocious."

Due to publicity the case has received, she said she's been "inundated with calls from area residents about the [alleged] terrible care their loved ones received in this facility. They're calling to vent."