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Fourth generation Bearcat leads HHS seniors

Suzanne Thompson is senior class president at HHS. Suzanne Thompson is senior class president at HHS.

Suzanne Thompson’s ties to Hendersonville High School go back to her great-grandmother, Geneva Thompson, class of 1929.

Almost nine decades later, Suzanne is among the leaders of the first graduating class of HHS students that knows the historic building is going to be retired.

Suzanne’s grandfather, Harry Thompson, graduated in 1950, and her dad, Jeff Thompson, who graduated, was in the class of ’81. Those that married into the family, like Piggy and Suzanne’s mother, didn’t attend HHS, although the entire Thompson family lives in Hendersonville. “I feel a strong connection to it,” Suzanne says of her high school.
The senior class president, she laments the decision by the Board of Commissioners to replace the historic Stillwell-designed HHS with a new school.
“There’s a lot of people that think it’s just a building and that traditions carry over, but that building has something special about it,” she says. “A new building isn’t going to have the hundreds of years of history behind it, it’s not going to feel the same. It really breaks my heart that there are people that have went there and say it’s just a school.”
Despite HHS’s future, Thompson is determined to give her all to the school. She looks forward to the senior play, her favorite HHS tradition. This year it will be “The Wizard of Oz.” It was her idea to paint the senior steps with a rainbow.
“We wanted to connect the senior play with the steps, but still keep it part of the high school,” she says. “That’s why it’s really colorful and whimsical, because ‘The Wizard of Oz’ has a lot of magic. I did the backbone of everything, but I consulted a lot with my peers because it’s their senior steps too. It was great to see how much of a communal thing it was.”

Besides her position as senior class president, she’s also president of the Keywanettes, an all-girls service club sponsored by the Hendersonville Kiwanis Club, and a member of Leadership, a faculty-selected club that organizes social events such as homecoming and the senior prom. Additionally, she plays on the high school tennis team, is a member of National Honor Society and the Spanish Club.

“For me I have a social life too, and I balance it really well,” she adds. “I have a job where I try to work a few days a week, so it’s all about prioritizing.”

Born into the family business

The job didn’t require an application. She was born into the family business, where her grandfather Harry Thompson is the namesake of the restaurant side of Piggy’s Ice Cream Parlor and Harry’s Grill. Suzanne started working there at 14.
The ice cream shop opened in 1980. It was Suzanne’s grandmother’s idea to add the ice cream parlor onto the apple stand Harry’s brother ran.
“When my dad and his brothers got older, they made the ice cream parlor bigger, and then they (her grandparents) wanted to try the restaurant business,” Thompson says. “The restaurant officially opened in 1993. That was the same year that my grandfather died, but they kept it going. They started with simple things like hot dogs and hamburgers and then in the late ‘90s they started barbeque, and that’s what they’re most famous for now. We’ve been blessed to have it for this long.”
Suzanne’s father, Jeff, cooks the barbecue and runs the business, working six days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Suzanne’s mother, Tamra, helps in the restaurant when she isn’t taking care of Suzanne’s younger sister, who is 4. Jeff’s brother and sister-in-law also help in the summer.
“All of our customers are personable and we have our regulars,” says Thompson, whose duties include scooping ice cream, taking orders, cooking and helping her dad with catering jobs. “They all know us by first name and we know their orders by heart before they walk through the front door.”

Lots of Sallie Thompsons

Although Sallie was Suzanne’s grandmother’s given name, friends and family called her Piggy for most of her life.
“Whenever she was little she was chunky, and her brothers called her ‘Little Piggy’,” Thompson says. “The nickname stuck. Everyone called her Piggy through high school and college. My grandfather’s name was Harry. When they met in college, Harry and Piggy became a thing. When they started the business they decided to keep it. That’s what we call her to this day.” The ice cream shop was named after Piggy, while the restaurant was named after Harry, a combination that led to a successful business.
Many of the females on the Thompson side of the family are named Sallie. It’s Suzanne’s first name as well. And her cousin, Sallie Thompson, the daughter of Michael and Elaine, is a freshman at HHS.
Thompson is leaving her mark on HHS and looks forward to college; she hopes to attend Clemson University.
“I like to be the leader, not the follower,” she says. “I want to lead my peers to the best of my ability, and leadership allows me to give back to the high school community. I think everyone should do that because the school itself has given a lot of people so much.”