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Phyllis Marie FERGUSON
1950 - 2021
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PHYLLIS MARIE FERGUSON (née Wilson) November 11, 1950 - March 12, 2021 Neebinaquay ('Summer Girl") the Indigenous name given her by artist Carl Ray Heartbroken, we announce the death of Phyllis Ferguson on Friday, March 12 at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital from heart failure. Beloved wife and creative partner of IMAX co-founder Graeme Ferguson, together for nearly 50 years. Graeme, Phyllis and Toni Myers led the IMAX Space Team in its pioneering achievement in chronicling the space shuttle era. Says Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada's first female astronaut, "A rarity for astronauts to trust anyone outside of our own orbit, we believed in the IMAX folks, not only as respected movie-makers but as trusted members of our own space team, integral to the success of our missions - the storytelling that would survive any of us." Phyllis was one-of-a-kind, an alpha female, fiercely loving, loyal, inventive and brave. Her inquiring mind and razor-sharp wit, combined with her resilience and compassion, carried her through 70 years of a magnificent adventure. Born in Quetico, Ontario, she overcame a turbulent and challenging early childhood. As a pre-teenager, she arrived on her own on a Greyhound bus from Edmonton into the home of her grandmother, Phyllis Tenniscoe, in Thunder Bay. She loved her Granny who had 19 children of her own and a warm and welcoming heart. Phyllis, a status member of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan (Golden Lake) First Nation, was raised to be self-sufficient amongst a vibrant family, her "cousins" who were really her aunts and uncles. Phyllis's love for her family was a strong thread throughout her life. At Port Arthur Collegiate, Phyllis was a good athlete, excelling at basketball and volleyball, and a keen student. She bonded with people who remained friends for life, one of whom said, "I felt so out of place there and meeting and connecting with you, another Indigenous girl, helped me greatly. You became my best friend." Phyllis always said that the second family who shaped her were Lindsay and the late David Morgan, who invited her in her final year of high school to come and live with them and their children. Phyllis had been thinking about becoming a teacher but at that point her guidance counsellor said, "you're always playing around with video equipment, you should pursue a career you enjoy." She enrolled in Confederation College, which offered a new course in radio and television. She was front and centre as host when the NFB came to Thunder Bay and launched Challenge for Change's weekly slot on the local TV station. Her early career included being an announce operator for CBC Radio in Whitehorse, alone in the studio, doing the whole show by herself, and then working on a community Indigenous newspaper in Ottawa. From assistant production manager on the CBC's Fifth Estate, she became production manager at CTV's W5, a turning point in her career. Next, after freelancing as a sought-after location manager for feature and made-for-TV films, she became immersed in the IMAX world. Her IMAX credits include Hail Columbia! The Dream is Alive, Blue Planet and Destiny in Space. Throughout her career, Phyllis was the "connector," laying the foundation for key relationships, based on straight talk, an unerring feel for what makes people tick and her talent for listening and getting people to talk. That instinct had been evident when she directed her first short documentary - the NFB's Nishnawbe-Aski: The People and the Land, which was made pro bono as a tool for Indigenous community members to make the case for their opposition to clear-cutting in northwestern Ontario. Phyllis's inimitable low-key style was evident in her regular routine of going to the Johnson Space Centre cafeteria every day, finding an empty table and waiting, quietly and confidently, as astronauts and flight directors would come by to share news and opinions. Sometimes an astronaut who had just been named to command a flight would ask her if there was any chance to get an IMAX camera on board. "To me she was the glue that held the IMAX Space Team and the NASA 'extended family' together," says Bill Readdy, former astronaut and associate administrator of NASA's Space Flight office. When Graeme and Phyllis retired at Lake of Bays, she became immersed in community life, supporting campaigns and organizations that matched her values and actively raising funds for hospitals. She also found new passions: returning to her love of sports, she took up golf which led to a whole new circle of deep friendships. She loved her black Labs, Naiad and Pixie, playing Scrabble and baking for neighbours. Norway Point became a chosen destination for widespread family and friends, relationships nurtured over many years. Forever remembered by the Tenniscoe family, especially Ruth Martinsen (the late Bent), Sandra Pehkonen (Allan Davis), Margaret Tenniscoe (Gary Ross) and all their families. Lovingly remembered by Graeme Ferguson; his children, Munro Ferguson and Allison Ferguson and their families: grandchildren, Ivan Ferguson, Joyce Ferguson (Pedro Cerna), Samuel Ferguson-Sharp (Melanie) and Lucas Ferguson-Sharp; their mother, Eo Sharp (Charles); great-grandson, Leo Cerna-Ferguson; and her sisters- and brother-in-law, Janet Kroitor (the late Roman), Mary Hooper (Bob) and Bill Ferguson (Millie). Her life is celebrated as well by Lindsay Morgan and family, countless friends across the country and the IMAX family here and around the world. A private cremation, handled by Cardinal Funeral Home in Toronto, has taken place. Her interment, conducted by the Everest Funeral Home, will take place at St. Andrew's Catholic Cemetery in Thunder Bay, where she will rest near her grandmother and relatives. Please consider a donation in her name to the Beendigen Anishinaabe Women's Crisis Home & Family Healing Agency or the South Muskoka Hospital in Bracebridge or the Huntsville Hospital Foundation or the OSPCA. A film on Phyllis's life, produced by Jackson Myers, is being created and will be shared soon. Please buy yourself some tulips and remember Phyllis.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Globe and Mail from Mar. 27 to Mar. 31, 2021.
Memories & Condolences
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30 entries
April 25, 2021
My condolences Graeme, Phyllis was always smiling and pleasant to be with when we met you at the local boat shows and other events around Lake of Bays which she loved so much.
Brian Gedge
Brian Gedge
Acquaintance
April 24, 2021
So sad to hear of the passing of Phyllis. Our heartfelt condolences to Graeme and family.
We worked alongside Phyllis back in her W5 days as a film editor and Shellie as production assistant. It is 50 years now but I remember Phyllis's big smile and raucous laugh. She was a force. She will be remembered.
Jeff Warren and Shellie Rubin
Coworker
April 17, 2021
Our deepest sympathies to you Graeme and families and the passing of Phyllis. She will be missed by so many.
Gayle and Neil McLeod
Family
April 16, 2021
A wonderful kind soul. She’ll certainly be missed by many.
Love from Beth Rowell’s girls
Pat, Barb, Betty and Peg
Family
April 12, 2021
So sad to hear about Phyllis' passing and my thoughts are with you Graeme and family. Have always enjoyed chats with Phyllis at the Huntsville Hospital Foundation's Golf tournament or in town. She will be dearly missed.
Katherine Craine
Friend
April 4, 2021
Thank you
Deborah Michon
Friend
April 4, 2021
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Wendy MacKeigan
April 3, 2021
She was a wonderful aunt. The summers I spent with Her and Graeme are some of my fondest memories. She introduced me to the fun of golfing and gave me my first set of clubs that i still have to this day. I loved watching Jeopardy with her trying to see if we could figure out the answers. I never could beat her at scrabble but still had lot of fun trying. I will miss her.
Dakota Ranttalo
Family
April 3, 2021
Everything everyone has written is absolutely on the mark. I still cannot fathom a world without the physical presence of Phyllis. Phyllis was simply one of those rare humans who indelibly leaves a memory on anyone she encountered. And if you were in her circle of persons she cared about, there were no boundaries to her love. Her wit, her outlook on life, her uncanny way of swooping in to meet needs you didn’t even know you had, her generosity & kindness, her unconditional acceptance of the frailty we each have — Phyllis just seemed to know, to accept & understand.
News of Phyllis’s death is really hard.
Graeme, from the time I first met you & Phyllis I knew there was a special magic between the two of you that would remain unbroken. You & Phyllis demonstrated such visible love & respect for each other and that never wavered, in fact just contiued to grow, over the decades since then. I learned so much about relationship from you & Phyllis, I hope you will find solace in your innumerable memories of your incredible life with Phyllis.
Much Love, Karen
Karen Niemi-Stevens
Friend
March 31, 2021
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Janine and Aimee (York U)
March 31, 2021
Phyllis Ferguson was a remarkable woman. She was powerful, smart, amazingly intuitive, had a razor sharp wit and was dedicated to her husband of 50 years, Graeme Ferguson. Phyllis and I worked together first in television and then for many years at IMAX. She was a great mentor and producer.
Judy Carroll
March 31, 2021
On behalf of the Tenniscoe family we send our heartfelt condolences to Graeme, Phyllis' friends, neighbors and coworkers. Our family has lost a tie that binds, a niece/sister/best friend and we will never be the same. She will be forever missed and loved. Rest in Peace dear one.
Margaret Tenniscoe
Family
March 31, 2021
Gathering Swag with Phyllis

There is a special bond that was shared in the time of smoking.
This ceremony of self indulgence brought us together in small groups to
share a separate presence of our own, to take stock and plan our
next moves, to exchange tobacco and find a momentary peace.

For those of us who could not sustain the physical damage or resist the attraction,
it was best to leave that peaceful circle. But I, for one, regret the loss of that
quiet connection to the comrades in arms who held to the ritual.

Be at peace my friend, in the wide arc of all your people, from within the last
smoking circle and without. We have felt the warm glow of your love and
heard the music of your laughter and long to return it .

We were scouts together for a long time ,
We traded our understanding of the changes unfolding
all around us, each looking to reveal a truth, or a joke unseen.

There was swag to be gathered , and wonders to behold.
But our tracks diverged and our sly conversation went
missing , though we still learned of each other’s news in quiet
ways. And our paths did cross after long absences; we would
just sit beside one another for a time, like reunited siblings, sheltering
from the wind. Then, in my heart, I was her little brother.

So am I now.
David Douglas
Friend
March 30, 2021
So many good memories of Phyllis going back almost 50 years. Whether months or years apart, visits with her and Graeme were timeless - always a comfortable room, quiet mornings of coffee and newspapers, afternoon jaunts to their favourite spots nearby, relaxing evening meals at home, and a dinner out here and there. She seemed to know everyone no matter where we went. Phyllis taught me to play backgammon on Carlton St and reigned over the Scrabble board in later years, in the sunroom at the lake. I think I might have eventually won if she’d just let me play with her a bit longer. I’ll carry her with me as a gentle reminder of how to live well and truly. Love to Graeme and all her family and friends.
Mary Alice Smith
Friend
March 30, 2021
I remember Phyllis as a kind and generous person. We are sad to read of her passing. Our heartfelt condolences to Graeme and family. She will be missed.
Kim and Cam Loader
March 29, 2021
We are so saddened by the sudden passing of Phyllis. We hold you in our heart Graeme during this sad time. May you find peace in the memories you have made together. She was a gentle and kind soul.
Peter Globensky and Beverly Sabourin
Peter Globensky and Beverly Sabourin
Friend
March 29, 2021
Phylis, you have been a great and loyal friend for over 50 years. Meeting you in high school was the best thing that happen to me. I will always remember those time and our years in College together.
Over the years we have remained friends and no matter how much time had past, it alway felt like we carried on from where we left off.
You always treated me with kindness, generosity and made our visits special by all the little things you would do preparing for my arrival. I loved your sense of humour and wit.

You have left us to soon my dear friend and I will miss you and will always treasure our friendship, our visits and your thoughtful ways. May you Rest in Peace.
Your friend
Beverly
Beverly Sabourin
Friend
March 29, 2021
You have been a great and loyal friend for over 50 years. Meeting you in high school was the best thing that happen to me. I will always remember those time and our years in College together.
Over the years we have remained friends and no matter how much time had past, it alway felt like we carried on from where we left off.
You always treated me with kindness, generosity and made our visits special by all the little things you would do preparing for my arrival. I loved your sense of humour and wit.

You have left us to soon my dear friend and I will miss you and will always treasure our friendship, our visits and your thoughtful ways. May you Rest in Peace.
Your friend
Beverly
Beverly Sabourin
Friend
March 29, 2021
I first met Phyllis in 1977 at CTV, and through that she put my name forward for the IMAX space adventures. Thank you Phyllis for getting me closer to space than I had thought possible. Phyllis was a very caring person and meticulous with small details. She was always cheerful with a wonderful smiling face. My condolences go to Graeme and his family and of course to all Phyllis's friends.
Tom Hidderley
Coworker
March 28, 2021
In loving memory of a wonderful person. We will love you and miss you always.
David K Wilson
Coworker
March 28, 2021
Our sympathies to you Graeme. What an incredible life she had. We echo Shirley's comments on her being humble for her life achievements. Who knew it all, Wow? We also enjoyed pleasant little chats at the post office or in our store and gallery. We will miss her also.
John & Lynn Murden
Friend
March 28, 2021
Phyllis was one of the first persons to welcome me to Lake of Bays. We continued our friendship over the years occasionally playing golf and visiting with her and Graeme at the boat shows. Lynne and I enjoyed seeing them at Bigwin and appreciated their welcoming presence.
We will miss her and hope you, Graeme will find solace in remembering the time you had together.
Peter Dunn
Friend
March 28, 2021
We were neighbours and friends for many, many years. Phyllis introduced me to many good friends but she could never get me involved with golf! She did volunteer me to help with the Dog Guides Golf tourney and she set it up that Kaye Peden became my soup partner for Early Years. We partied in good times and were there for each other whenever we needed to be. I'll miss her. RIP dear friend. Sending prayers to Graeme.
Brenda Paterson
Friend
March 27, 2021
I met Phyllis about 20 years ago looking into a job for caring for Graeme and Phyllis' home and have to say she was one of the best people going. It was always great to talk to her every week of working for her and watching her work on many projects to help community and neighbors. She loved helping everyone she could. It has been a pleasure to work for both Graeme and Phyllis and Naiad and later Pixie. Phyllis was one of a kind and loved to bake cakes. I've fond memories of the good smell wafting own the hall to where I would be working. She will be missed very much but never forgotten. Rest in peace. My deepest sympathy to Graeme and family and her closest friends.
Josephine McClelland
Friend
March 27, 2021
I was fortunate enough to work with Phyllis, along with my co-composer Micky Erbe on so many wonderful IMAX projects. We worked with Graeme, Phyllis, Toni Myers and a great team as friend and mentors. She was always cheerful, gentle and had all the answers to everything. I saw her get the job done on so many projects and was so grateful to have worked with her and called her friend. My condolences to Graeme, her soulmate, and her family and friends. Condolences and love from Maribeth, Robert Schwartz, Leah Erbe and Micky Erbe.
Maribeth Solomon
Friend
March 27, 2021
An amazing, inspiring life ended far too early. Modest about her accomplishments, Phyllis showed great determination in all that she did. I am saddened to know I played my last golf game with her last September, that we have shared our last meal. Graeme, Peter & I always looked forward to seeing the two of you. You are both very much a huge part of the heart and soul of Lake of Bays. A devastating loss to you Graeme and she will be forever missed. May the many joyful memories you have of her be a blessing to you and all of the family.
Lynne Bridger Dunn
Friend
March 27, 2021
A very interesting woman with amazing stories, who will be missed by all the Duffers on Lake of Bays.
Brenda Turnour
Friend
March 27, 2021
Phyllis was a gem. I spent many hours in the projection room with her and Tony. They were so professional in handling the crisis that went on in getting the films ready to go out to theatres the next day. We worked all night and were always treated to cookies that Phylis always had packed away. To this day I always carry cookies with me. It sure opens many doors and brings a smile on peoples faces. Thanks Phylis it was an honour to know you.
Jacques Legault
Jacques Legault
Friend
March 27, 2021
A humble lady.
As Lake of Bays friends few knew of her many increcible accomplishments.
We knew her as a good sport and a generous and caring human being.
She will be sadly missed and greatly respected.

Shirley Prittie
Friend
March 27, 2021
May the love of friends and family carry you through your grief.
Sorry to hear the ad news.
Gloria and Michael Woodside
Neighbor
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