Obituary of Jim Ferguson
Sunrise: Monday, July 15, 1935
Sunset: Tuesday, February 6, 2024
When Jim was born in Springfield, IL, his parents couldn’t agree on a name for weeks, so his grandmother started calling him her little Gem. The nickname stuck but morphed into Jim. He mainly lived in Illinois until he was in sixth grade, at which time he moved to San Antonio, Texas, to attend Peacock Military Academy, a college-preparatory boarding school. During those years, he often spent his summers in the Badlands of South Dakota, where his father worked the season at Cedar Pass Lodge. Mr. Ben Millard, the lodge’s owner, liked young Jim and taught him how to keep the books for the business, but Jim still had ample time to roam and explore the National Park with his dog, Tipper.
After graduating from high school, Jim moved to Sunnyslope, Arizona. Six months later, he enlisted in the Air Force. He served on active duty as a Radar Operator from 1954 to 1957 and spent another five years in the reserves. Jim was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and a Good Conduct Medal during his active service. He returned to Arizona upon his honorable discharge.
In 1958, Jim was set up on a blind date and met Lois Draper. Jim said her petite, graceful bearing and lovely smile drew him to her as a young man. They married on May 20, 1958, and they built a happy family during their twenty-five years of marriage. Jim had three children with Lois: Jeff, Brad, and Laura. He enjoyed being a dad—always generous with his time and willing to share his knowledge while offering guidance and tools to navigate life.
Sadly, Lois passed away in 1983 from cancer. Jim founded the LYFe Foundation to honor Lois by creating and distributing a Cancer Services Directory to any person or organization requesting it. This was pre-internet, and there was a need for a directory, and it felt appropriate since Lois’ joy came from helping people find information. Jim spearheaded a skate across the USA to raise funds to print the booklet as a tribute to her in 1984. He rode a motorcycle behind his sons as they skated 3,500 miles from California to New York.
Jim met Beverly Wheeler while she was a Director at the Arizona State Department of Education, and he was the Department Chair of Psychology at Mesa Community College. During their first meeting to discuss the software Jim had developed, she called Jim into her office, closed the door, which she had never done, and gave him her home phone number. Jim said Bev came gently into his life and restored the sun with her beautiful smile, wonderful hugs, warmth, and charm. They married in June 1988 and shared thirty-three delightful years before Parkinson’s took her from him in 2021.
As a young man with a wife and a baby son to support, Jim worked as a fry cook and decided he needed to further his education to better care for his family. It was tough, but he went to Arizona State University and obtained a Masters degree in Psychology and all but his dissertation for his doctorate. He then worked as a school psychologist for four years, working with special needs children, and did significant psychological testing across Arizona. He was hired by Mesa Community College in 1967 and taught psychology for thirty years. For most of his tenure at the college, he served as the Psychology Department Chair.
He was innovative, some say, ahead of his time. When PCs came on the scene, he started Microsystems Software Ltd. while still working at MCC. He designed software to assist teachers with testing and grading and implemented a computer-based tutoring lab for students. Jim was also instrumental in establishing a forum where the department chairs from all Maricopa Community Colleges could come together. His inspiration eventually became the National Chair Association.
Jim was a sharp, active, generous, and caring man who smiled and laughed a lot. He was involved in various organized activities, including JCs, YMCA Indian Guides, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and a theater group. Jim loved to play handball, enjoyed fly fishing, playing a round of golf, and camping. He also dabbled in several hobbies, with woodworking being his favorite.
However, poetry is the only art he did consistently throughout his life. Jim’s passion for poetry started when he wrote his first one at age ten. Jim’s poetry is about life and what it means to be human. An editor once said, ‘Jim is a powerful poet. He covers the gamut of feelings from love to hate, from patriotism to disillusionment of country, from ribald to nonsensical. Some poems are excruciatingly tender, others passionately so. Beautifully metrical, he captures the imagination and the emotions. He is Everyman.’
Sadly, the world is dimmer without Jim’s bright smile, and we all miss the remarkable man who graced our lives with his presence.
Jim is survived by his children Jeff Ferguson (Nancy), Brad Ferguson (Sue), and Laura Acton; grandkids, Steven Acton, Jana Ferguson, Andrew Acton, Brenton Ferguson (Molly), Kyle Ferguson (Chey), Zach Acton; and great-granddaughter Kendall Acton. He is preceded in death by his parents Joe and Wilma Ferguson, his brother Larry, sister Rosalie, first wife Lois Ferguson (married 1958-1983), and second wife Beverly Ferguson (married 1988-2021).
A Celebration of Life will be held from 1:00-3:00 p.m. on Friday, February 16, 2024, at Meldrum Mortuary, 52 N MacDonald, Mesa, AZ 85201. Following the memorial, the family invites you for appetizers and dessert at 4:00 p.m. at the home of Brad & Sue.
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