Dean Thompson
A Life Well Lived

Dean Latham Thompson, 60, of Mountain Lakes, NJ, passed away on Monday, July 3, 2023, in Lucerne, Switzerland from a sudden and unexpected medical emergency while on vacation with his beloved wife, Kelly, and their family.


Dean was born on June 26, 1963 in Columbia, South Carolina.  He attended Hammond Academy in Columbia, SC, and graduated with a B.A. from University of South Carolina in 1985 where he also earned a Master’s Degree in Accounting in 1986. He worked in Mergers and Acquisitions and Auditing for Touche Ross (now Deloitte USA) in Atlanta office and later in Wilton, CT and New York City.  Dean met his perfect match and love of his life, Kelly Ann Zappa, on a blind date in 1992. Six months later they were engaged. The first day home from their honeymoon, Dean began working at Enterprise Holdings where he spent the remainder of his career in duel positions of Vice President of Finance and Vice President of Government Affairs, New York Group.


A Southerner at heart, Dean, with his barbeque smoker and trailer moved to Mountain Lakes, NJ in April of 1997.  Dean connected easily to people and it didn’t take long for most everyone to know the Thompsons. He was an ardent supporter of youth and high school sports, particularly Mountain Lakes Lacrosse, where his three children thrived and went on to play lacrosse for their respective colleges. Dean was team photographer and the most colorful guy in the crowd, always spirited and dressed in argyle pants matching his team’s colors. He attended every game, all team dinners and fundraising events with a captivating positivity, and hosted the best tailgates. His largesse was not limited to sports teams. Dean’s sense of community included making and serving enough smoked pork butt to feed the entire town on Mountain Lakes Day, serving 300 people at Labor Day picnics at St. Catherine of Siena Church and auctioning sausage making parties for local charities.


Together, Dean and Kelly hosted numerous parties, turning ordinary gatherings into marvelous events. Seeming never to tire, the Thompson duo welcomed friends and anyone who needed temporary shelter into their home. It wouldn’t be long before guests were part of the family. Dean and Kelly’s generosity was sincere and inspiring. Their love for others, and mostly for each other, was felt by everyone who entered their home.


Friendships were very genuine and deep-rooted for Dean, who always made time for old friends while expanding relationships with people in every facet of his life. His passions included fishing (especially fly fishing), skiing, golf and travel. Each year for the past 30 years, Dean and a group of friends traveled to remote destinations, stayed in rustic cabins, and woke before dawn to secure their place in knee-deep water for their day’s fishing endeavor. An Eagle Scout, Dean loved being one with nature. He introduced his Mountain Lakes friends to his fishing life and organized trips to the same rustic cabins so they could appreciate the great outdoors, develop their fishing skills and have some fun.  At a much faster pace, Dean enjoyed skiing and went to destinations in the US and Canada whenever he could with family and friends. He loved carving tracks and bonding après ski. Dean also loved golf. A member of Rockaway River Country Club, and President’s Cup winner, Dean was a legend on and off the course. His closest Mountain Lakes friends and fellow RRCC members spent many memorable hours with Dean at the club and on trips to other golf destinations. It is with these good friends that Dean learned more about bourbon and became a steward. No matter what the activity, the common theme was comradery and brotherhood.


The appeal of travel took Dean to destinations across the globe. The Thompson family vacations included the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and much of North America. Sometimes travel for Dean was not just about the where, but also the events in a particular place. From 2002 to 2006 Dean could be found in New Orleans on a float for the Mardi Gras parade, dressed in full regalia.


Given how Dean lived, it made sense that he managed two corporate roles at the same time. In the 30 years he spent at Enterprise Holdings, the parent company of Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Dean was a driving force behind the New York Group’s consistent success. Dean was admired by colleagues across the country and was known for his sincerity and mentorship of others. Numerous employees contribute a portion of their professional success to having met Dean. Even with his level of responsibilities, he had an overarching desire to keep the fun in everything he did.


The Food Network produced a show about Dean and his father-in-law, Joseph Rocco Zappa, entitled “Tailgate Kings.” Dean was humble when discussing his special barbeque recipe, having won or placed in many competitions in several states. Due to his knowledge and finesse, he was often asked to judge contests and was well-known among barbeque aficionados.  Dean made repeat television appearances with the celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.


Dean Thompson sat on the Boards of several non-profit organizations including Medical Needs Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club of Newark, where he was Treasurer and Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee. The Boys and Girls Club of Newark was dear to Dean’s heart as he used his time, talent and treasure to directly impact the lives of Newark youth. An outpouring of love has resulted in several living legacy scholarships that will keep the enduring spirit of Dean Latham Thompson alive for future generations. He is remembered by his family and friends as a devoted husband, deeply-involved and loving father, and the nicest guy in the world.