Memories of Shelby Ferguson

My sister-in-law, Shelby Ferguson, died recently while walking in her garden. Shelby was my wife Cindy’s older sister, and I have known her for more than half of my life.

Shelby was an inveterate reader, something we shared, along with the Ferguson love for movies.  We loaned books and movies to each other on occasion,  and Shelby’s Christmas presents to me over the years were almost always books, to my delight.  We spent many hours in conversation about them, and other topics dear to us.

When our boys were growing up, we would visit Aunt Shelby often, when she lived in Eugene, and attend UO track meets and football games, and walk about her neighborhood.  She would put us all up, and make English desserts like trifle that the boys and I loved, especially Ben, whose sweet tooth remains unrivaled.

When the Fergusons got together, they loved to share family stories of growing up, teasing each other gently, their warm delight in each other apparent. Shelby seemed unburdened during those moments, and she often laughed her head off, even at herself.

 Shelby had a strong sense of social justice, perhaps inherited from her father Burt, whose favorite philosopher was Robert Owen, the industrialist who dedicated the remainder of his life and money to establishing a more equal footing for his workers.

Shelby spent most of her life in the Oregon of Portland and Eugene, but pined often for a simpler, more rural life.  Her travels took her once to Scotland, and she described her visit to the Isle of Skye, a remote and somewhat isolated place, as a place where she instantly felt at home.  She talked of living in a small community, perhaps on the coast, and finally settled in St. Helens on the Columbia river, a place that allowed her to fulfill that wish. She loved living there, and was very involved with her neighbors and especially their children.  

Late in life, she chose to go back to school and finish her bachelor’s degree, and subsequently went on to get a masters degree in education so that she could teach grade school.  She substituted regularly in the nearby school districts, and shortly before she died, was caring for pre-school children.

Shelby suffered a great deal at the end of her life, as she fought diabetes and lung problems, exacerbated by a life of heavy smoking.  Thankfully, her suffering has ended.

I married into the Ferguson clan, who made me a part of their family, and indeed, at home. Shelby was kind and gracious and loving to me, and made me feel welcome, and when I think of Shelby I will always remember that.  Love you, Shelby.

Additional memories from family and friends

March 16, 2015

I met Shelby in the workroom of a special education project at the university of Oregon, where Shelby and I were both employed in the most mental of tasks. Shelby and I bonded over our dislike of our work and some of our employers, but we developed a friendship that lasted through husbands, boyfriends, school, more school, jobs, movies, music, and wonderful football games here in eugene. I have never known anyone like Shelby. She may have been the smartest person I ever knew and, like another writer observed, she knew she was the smarter of the two of us, but didn’t let on that she knew. And she didn’t let that impact our friendship. I’m so sad that she’s gone, but I know she would want us to remember the good times with her and keep laughing!

Caroline Moore,

March 12, 2015
My heartfelt condolences to Shelby’s family. What a tribute to her life to read the messages addressed to and from her loved ones. I knew Shelby for the last five years of her life as MA degree supervisor turned friend. She knew she was the smarter of the two of us, but she never made it an issue. She just kept trying to teach me more! She always gave from the heart. What an impression she left on my life. I find comfort in knowing Shelby lives on in the hearts of those that knew her. My prayers go out to Shelby’s family. I went to grade school and high school with Shelby and remember her as such a sweet person.

Barbara Hunter-Nichols,
Gresham, Oregon

March 09, 2015

Dave and I would like to send our heartfelt condolences to the family–We never met Shelby in person but through Scot have gotten to know her so well–Scot is family to us so Shelby’s passing really touched us as well–I corresponded with her on- yes -Face Book- and there shared our love for our furry children and her compassion was beyond words as she always was willing to open up home and heart!! She now has joined a legion of angels up above and I know is in pretty good company–I am sure she will be missed by all but she will live on in your hearts forever–RIP Shelby

Erica and Dave Richardson,
Rancho Mirage, California

March 09, 2015

I pray for comfort and blessings to Shelby’s family in this time of great loss. Went to high school with Shelby many years ago.

Darlene Garner-O’Brien,
Blue Eye, Missouri

March 08, 2015

Alameda grade school class of 1964 just had a reunion last summer and we were wondering about Shelby. I’m sorry to hear of her passing

Patricia (Lowry) Holman,
Portland, Oregon

March 08, 2015

I was so sorry to hear of Shelby’s passing. Shelby and I were colleagues at the University of Oregon. We both worked for the Erb Memorial Union. I learned about vegetable garden companion planting from Shelby. After moving away from Eugene, I lost contact with Shelby. My sympathies go out to her family. She was a lovely person.

Wanda Schutz Urban,
Amity, Oregon

March 08, 2015

Sorry to heard about your lost,may the lord be with you

Grace Fuller-Capinellie,
Stockton, California

March 08, 2015

I worked with Shelby on the Cultural Forum back in the 80’s. She was a delight to work with, truly a good person. I’d lost touch with her over the years and was sad to see her obituary. She added a lot to this world.

Leon Taylor,
Beaverton, Oregon

March 08, 2015

May God bless her family and friends who loved her so much. I am so sorry to hear of your loss.

Susan Hayes,
Fairview, Quebec

March 08, 2015

We were sisters for 60 years, through swim outings to Jantzen Beach, picnics at Laurelhurst Park, matinee movies at the Hollywood theater, burgers at Yaw’s, bicycle rides in the Firestone industrial park, Olympic trial track meets at Hayward Field, exciting Christmas mornings and your wonderful trifle for dessert, intense games of Monopoly, Clue and Risk, trials, celebrations, sadness and joy…..we were sisters…and we still are. Life goes by so quickly. I will see you in the next one…and you better be ready for a rousing game of Dictionary! Rest in peace, sis. I love you.

Cynthia Wiebe,
Sylmar, California

March 08, 2015

So sorry to hear of Shelbys passing.She was ahead of her time when we were kids in high school, already knowing her own path. Heartfelt condolences to all of her family.

Cecile Fournier- Pratt,

March 08, 2015

My condolences to the entire family. Shelby’s smile and laughter carried us through high school and beyond.

Signa Peterson Gibson,
Portland, Oregon

March 08, 2015

My condolences goes out to the whole family. It’s been a privilege being Shelby’s friend & neighbor for the last 12 years. Our family enjoyed her company from visiting, gossip, family celebrations, to watching a Ducks game, or listen to her political view, or lend a helping hand. And us as well. She especially enjoyed spending time with our kids – Wyatt & Mackenzie. She would ask if she could borrow them, to help her and they were always willing. We miss our friend and always will. but, we have a special angel on our side and to watch over us.

We love you Shelby!!!!

Mindy & Jason Dowdy,
St Helens, Oregon

February 29, 2016

Shelby was my classmate in cohort for Elementary Education Masters degree at Concordia University. A wonderfully Frank individual she got the somewhat boring topics interesting and downright fun. Not one to stand on the sidelines Shelby gave our instructors and fellow students a run for the money with her honest opinions and candor. Sensitive and smart/she was a friend during the long hours we endured for our degree. I was surprised and shocked at this strong lady’s death and hope she has the peace of God now.

Grace Alleman,
Portland, Oregon

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