Barry Ferguson came to the Association as a young child and lived the rest of his life in care with the organization until he passed away at the 109th Ave group home in the 1990s.
Barry’s first home was with Bert and Miriam Tieman, devoted volunteers for the Association in the early years. The Tiemans did not have children of their own and generously opened their home to many handicapped children over the years.
Barry attended the Peace School of Hope and lived with the Tiemans until the dormitory for the school was built in 1962. Barry and fellow Peace School student Dale McQuaig were the first residents in the dorm, which was named Barrydale in their honour.
Tony Bonise worked with Barry when was a group home resident. His recollection of Barry includes a trip to a Grey Cup game. “Anyone who knew Barry knew that he was unstable on his feet.” When the game was over, Barry was weaving through the crowd to make his way to the exit. A drunken spectator mistook Barry’s stagger as a sign that he too was drunk, embraced him as a “good buddy” and they had great fun together on the way out of the stadium. Barry had a wonderful time.
Barry walked on his knees when Myriam Uribe first met him at the 109th Ave group home. She encouraged him to try to walk on his feet. She remembers repeatedly telling him, “You can do it. Come on Barry.” There were many attempts and plenty of falls. “And guess what. He walked.”
Programming for Barry was focused greatly on skills at the time. Myriam says that life was better for him when the focus moved to social skills. Barry would go to the back yard and bring weeds to Myriam before her gardens were planted.
Myriam was at the group home on the day that Barry passed away. She says he lost his balance and took a fatal fall in the home. “ I adored that man.”
Eulogy for Barry Ferguson(Eulogy written by Kim Ferguson)
We are gathered here to honour the memory of Barry Jay Ferguson. Barry was born June 13, 1947 and spent his childhood in Grimshaw. At the age of 10 Barry moved to Grande Prairie to attend the Peace School of Hope. Barry was well known to the residents of Grimshaw and could often be seen touring the town whether riding on his tricycle or on foot. Barry was could always be found in the company of his “two big dogs.”
Barry was blessed with a “sunny” disposition and his sand box was a meeting place where neighbourhood children of all ages would gather to play and enjoy the warmth of his friendship and the summer sun. Barry developed strong family bonds during his childhood, which sustained him and was always a source of joy through his entire life.
Upon moving to Grande Prairie...Barry lived with a family, the Tiemans, before moving in to Barrydale Dormitory which was named after Barry and Dale McQuaig. He remained at Barrydale until 1972, when Barry moved into the 109 residence which has been his home ever since. Since, Barry participated in the vocational program at Swan Industries where he carried out various jobs in the woodshop and paintshop.
During his stay in Grande Prairie he made many friends and found such happiness. Whether at work or in his home Barry was always quick to extend the hand of friendship. Barry loved life...this love was evident in the way Barry lived his life.
Barry enjoyed a warm family environment in his home at 109 Residence. In talking with his friends and people who worked with Barry, I’ve recounted many pleasant memories and experiences and would like to share some of the more memorable ones with you and help in some small way to recapture the essence of Barry Ferguson. One could not go long without discovering that Barry had a passion for cars, trucks and tractors. He had pictures of cars, and models, there were no end to the hours that Barry would just watch the traffic drive by, commenting on anything exceptional.
However, it was only once Barry was in your car that his true passion for driving became obvious! Barry, ever the back seat driver, would exclaim “Look out, you turkeys” to any other car that would dare to violate our space. Of course when riding with me Barry would cover his eyes, and tell me to watch out. Perhaps Barry’s most memorable driving experience occurred during the first annual Association road rally. Barry, an integral part of team “Iatolah” captured the best costume award with a stunning array of Arab costumes. Barry loved to participate in events such as these where his humour and sociable nature were key elements to a good time. Barry loved people, whether participating in sports, especially floor hockey or watching sports like hockey, football and baseball. Barry participated in the floor hockey program for four years; 2 years at the A level and 2 years on the B team which gave him a chance to develop his skills with the team being slower paced. Both on the floor and on the bench Barry exhibited great determination and enthusiasm, a real team man. Perhaps Barry’s biggest thrill in sports was when he attended the Grey Cup.
Of course Barry’s life was not all hustle and bustle. Barry enjoyed his privacy, his space. On weekends, Barry would spend 2 or 3 hours working on a puzzle or drawing. His room was his sanctuary. Barry took pride in his room, his home and his yard. Barry was very neat and he strove to maintain his home to his standard of neatness. He was always there to sweep or vacuum, do the dishes or fold the laundry. In the summer, Barry helped to maintain the yard. He loved the outdoors and took great pride in the yard. He helped me mow the lawn, rake the grass and work in the garden. Perhaps, best, Barry loved summer barbeques in the back yard.
Barry enjoyed a full life, traveling to places such as Hawaii, Victoria and Kelowna. He participated fully in many of the recreational activities available to him. Barry especially enjoyed his trips back to Grimshaw. He basked in the love of his family. Every Christmas and Easter he would come home for a visit with his family, re-energize, ready to tackle the world. Barry lived a life of love.
The remarkable thing about Barry is that he lived an enviable life while conquering many obstacles. His was not an “easy” life. Barry was mentally handicapped, had epilepsy and suffered debilitating arthritis.
I can’t begin to imagine the frustration Barry must have experienced at not being able to express himself clearly or overcoming the stigma of being “different.” During the middle to late seventies Barry lost the ability to walk. He had to crawl to the bus to get to work. But Barry persevered. First he pushed a chair, then he had two walking canes, until finally he was again walking on his own. This freedom of movement was not without a price. Barry fell down many times; often injuring himself, but Barry always picked himself up and carried on.
I could go on a long time talking about Barry but I will leave that to each of you...to relive the times he spent with you in your own minds, so that you may cherish the many memories.
Barry has moved on to better life with God and I am happy for him. Barry lived a life that characterizes all that is best in men; humour, love, determination, dignity. I know my life has been better for knowing Barry and all those who knew and loved him will miss his presence. Barry Jay Ferguson those who love you send their blessings and best wishes. Rest in peace and may God bless.