Disabled Vietnam veteran honors fallen

Wanda English Burnett

Honoring fallen and deceased veterans is something a Moores Hill man takes very seriously.

In fact, Stephen Thompson, himself a disabled Vietnam veteran, believes so much in what he does, he told The Versailles Republican “I owe it to every veteran.” What he “owes” is a ride to a military person’s final resting place in style - by a horse drawn caisson, designed and partially built by Thompson.

“I fought with my wife for eight years over building the caisson,” he noted. Thompson said his wife, Karen, thought it was morbid.

However, this year Stephen decided he had to complete the project and now Karen agrees. “Doing these funerals has really changed him,” Karen said of her husband of 15 years.

Stephen designed the caisson and has already served several families including one here in Ripley County, when Cpl. John Bishop was killed in Afghanistan in September.

Stephen’s horse, Fancy, who pulls the caisson with dignity, wears a red, white and blue plume.

Patriotism runs deep in Stephen’s blood. He proudly served his country in Vietnam and still serves his community and fallen comrades through his caisson service. Fancy knows the solemn feeling of a funeral and paces her gait. At a recent soldier’s funeral in Ohio, Stephen said she gently nuzzled a baby as if to say, “it will be all right.”

It’s not all about sadness for the Thompson family who also own and operate the Carriage Occasions LLC company. They raise and care for their own horses on their farm just outside of Moores Hill and then transport them to Covington, KY, where they are lovingly cared for each day on the weekend before taking people for rides around the cities of Covington, Newport, and Cincinnati.

“Oh, yes, we take them home every night,” the Thompsons noted as they brushed and polished the horses for a weekend recently.

Every detail is attended to right down to the horses getting a final treat, usually a Jolly Rancher, before they head out for the evening.

The Thompsons have seven beautifully manicured carriages with four in operation on a recent excursion. Four of their 11 horses were used for the weekend - Duchess, who is the newcomer to the group, a Percheron who is extremely well-mannered; Fancy, who is the favorite of Stephen’s, a half Tennessee Walker and half Percheron; Dubbie, a Standardbred; and Cracker Jack, a Belgium Draft weighing in at 2000 pounds.

Stephen and his drivers have built a good reputation with restaurants and businesses in the cities they serve. He has a great working relationship with Nelmar Hensel, who manages the Boi Na Braza Brazilian Steak House in the Carew Tower on Vine Street. “I send people to him, he refers them to me,” Stephen laughed.

That easy going approach is what might draw people to Stephen, but his knowledge of the city once he begins a tour is what sets his rides apart from others. “I didn’t know anything about Cincinnati,” he admitted, when he started the business back in 2004. He said he began to study the history of the city and became thoroughly interested in it for himself. Now he shares it with others.

Right now the Thompsons stage their horses and carriages out of an old firehouse in Covington. But, they are looking to purchase a larger piece of property, also in Covington, where they can expand.

Besides having the caisson, Stephen has plans for a horse drawn hearse that will be on display.
Beginning with one carriage, the Thompsons have built their business to what it is today with the knowledge that they will always serve the veterans. On their website: www.CarriageOccasions.com, you will find the words, “respect, honor, and loyalty.”

On a lighter note, you will find carriages of the Thompsons offering custom horse and carriage rides at their stand on Vine and 5th streets in front of Tiffany’s (under the large TV screen on the Macy’s building across from Fountain Square in Cincinnati) on most weekends - weather permitting.

Stephen Thompson is pictured with his favorite horse, Fancy, who pulls the caisson for funerals.