Margaret Helena Ferris
Margaret H. Ferris, 93, Neenah, died peacefully Tuesday, February 25, 2014, at Island Shores, Neenah. She was born April 1, 1920, in Spearfish, South Dakota, daughter of Charles and Bertha (Walther) Brown. She grew up in Kokomo, Indiana, but moved during high school to West Allis, where she graduated from West Allis High School in 1938. Influenced by her father's hearing loss, which began in his thirties, she chose a career in deaf education at Milwaukee State Teachers College (now UW-Milwaukee). Even before receiving her degree in 1942, Margaret began teaching at Morgan School in Appleton, replacing a teacher who had gotten married, as Wisconsin did not hire married women at the time!
While on the train to visit her grandfather in South Dakota during WW II, she met Garwood Ferris, a soldier on leave. They corresponded during the war and were married December 1, 1945. They were married until his death in 1997. By the time of her marriage, Margaret was allowed to remain as a teacher, so she and Garwood settled in Appleton, where Gar became an apprenticed Fourdrinier Wire Weaver for the Appleton Wire Works. At age 30, she ran for and won a place on the Appleton School Board, but left after 6 months when Gar was called up for the Korean War
and they moved briefly to Florida. Upon their return, they moved to Menasha, where she raised her children until called back to teaching. She earned a Master's degree at UW-Oshkosh in 1974 and continued teaching the deaf and multiple handicapped until retiring in 1982 from the Oshkosh Public Schools. She often stated she taught 27 years without ever being heard.
Margaret had many interests. She was a life long reader enjoying serious books on philosophy and religion as well as mysteries and science fiction. During high school, she was the honored queen of Job's Daughters, and was valedictorian upon graduation. In 1955, Margaret was one of nine co-founders of the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, which is thriving today. She was a 50-year member of Delta Kappa Gamma Society of Women Educators; a 30-year member of an Appleton writers group; a 30 year member of SHHH (Self Help for the Hard of Hearing); and in 1988 was nominated for a position on the State of Wisconsin's Governor's Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, where she served for two terms. In 1999 she was UW-Milwaukee's Fox Valley Alumna of the Year.
She worked tirelessly to get banks, churches and public buildings to acquire hearing loops to aide the deaf and hard of hearing. After retirement she joined the Neenah Optimist Club where she volunteered to sell brats and beer at Packer games. And in 1994 she wrote "Bright Silence" for parents of hearing impaired children. For many years she also tutored adults Alan and Sally.
Margaret is survived by her two daughters: Peggy (Bob) Laemle, Highland Park, IL; and Sue (Brad) Mitchell, Watertown, SD; five grandchildren: Johanna and Molly Laemle; and Emily, Katy and Nathan Mitchell; three great grandchildren: Ender, Michael and Jade; and other relatives and friends.
Margaret was preceded in death by her parents, husband, and a brother Bruce Brown.
Funeral services will be held at 10:00 a.m., Monday, March 3, 2014, at the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2600 East Philip Lane, Appleton, with Rev. Roger Bertschausen officiating. Interment will be in Oak Hill Cemetery, Neenah. Visitation will be Monday at the church from 9:00 a.m. until the time of the service. Memorial contributions appreciated in Margaret's memory to the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, C/O: Margaret Ferris Scholarship for Hard of Hearing Students, 4455 W. Lawrence St. Appleton, WI 54912.
Margaret's family would like to thank all the staff at Island Shores, where she happily lived for eight years; and her Theda Care at Home Hospice staff. Having lived for almost 94 years, most of Margaret's friends are already gone. She does have one "young" couple who have been her friends for over 50 years, Lorna and Jim Davel, whose friendship meant so much to her. She had the same Fuller Brush/McNess man for 50 years and became friends with the Jehovah's Witnesses who visited her monthly for 30 years. (Neither was able to convert the other!) She was well loved and respected.