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Thomas Ferguson


1938 - 2014 | Obituary Condolences Gallery
Thomas Ferguson Obituary
High school history teacher, world traveler, bibliophile, and longtime Oak Park resident Thomas Dudley Ferguson, 75, died peacefully at home March 16, 2014. The cause of death was pulmonary fibrosis. Tom was born August 23, 1938 in Hinsdale, Illinois to Mildred (née Whitt) and James Carroll Ferguson, a construction engineer for the Link-Belt Company. Older brothers, James and Richard, introduced him to jazz, a lifelong passion he shared with sister, Martha. Raised in LaGrange, IL, Tom graduated from Cossitt Elementary School and Lyons Township High School, where he met the love of his life, Carole Lindner Ferguson. They were married in 1959. Tom received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana in 1962, and began his teaching career at Elmwood Park High School the same year. With their daughters, Sarah and Heather, Tom and Carole moved to Oak Park in 1965, in time to become active in the movement advocating open housing policies there. Tom joined the history department at Oak Park River Forest High School in 1967, where he taught until his retirement in 1994. He was the chairman of the history department from 1986 to 1994. A popular, iconoclastic teacher, Tom led his students on field trips all over Chicago. His assignments often helped students understand how they themselves were a part of history, teaching them, as he put it, "to see through time." He assigned block reports, for which kids went door to door to learn their neighbors' stories. He asked students to interview a family member who had immigrated to the USA, often a grandparent. In 1988, he started "Interpretations," an annual publication of the finest scholarly history writing by OPRFHS students. He was always delighted to hear from former students, who would stop him on the street decades later to tell him how much they had learned in his class. In 1970, Tom was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach for a year at the Sherborne School in Sherborne, Dorset, England. In the summer of 1971, the family embarked on a memorable six-week-long camping trip through western Europe, Scandinavia and the former Soviet Union. A gifted conversationalist, Tom was genuinely interested in everyone he met. He had a subtle sense of humor and an astonishing memory. He was a brilliant photographer, and a lover of road trips, good food, family history, hometown newspapers, C-Span, the Civil War, old movies, tennis, and the White Sox. Tom and Carole travelled together to all 50 states, the Middle East, Costa Rica, and Canada. In addition to his wife, Carole, Tom is survived by daughters Sarah (William Neuman) and Heather (Annika Fjelstad), his beloved grandchildren Max, Emma, and Romy Neuman, and Josiah and Gabe Fjelstad Ferguson, and a large and loving extended family. Daughter Christine died in infancy in 1960. Tom's ashes will be interred near her gravesite at Woodlawn Cemetery in Urbana, Illinois. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 5 at 2 PM at First United Church of Oak Park.
Published in Chicago Tribune from Mar. 22 to Mar. 23, 2014
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