By KIM LOCCISANO
Times Leader Staff Writer
"I'm 91 years young."
T-L Photo/KIM LOCCISANO
Ferguson (back right) is a longtime member of the Golden Bowler’s League at the St. Clair Lanes and a member of the team known as “Harry’s Hammers.” He shares the weekly bowling festivities with fellow teammates: (back left) Denny Bland of Bellaire, (seated left to right) Peggy Adams of Neffs, and Shadyside residents Martha Luke and Paula Junkins. Not available at the time of the photo was teammate Buck Venham also of Shadyside.
T-L Photo/KIM LOCCISANO
Ferguson gets ready to step up to the lane.
Ferguson is seen in a favorite shirt, one worn by Lions Club members during a roadside “Coffee Break” activity he has often helped with in years past.
Even if you are not standing next to St. Clairsville resident Richard Freguson when he speaks of his age, you can be confident there is a smile on his face and he is enjoying life to the fullest, and somewhere within virtually each and every day it is likely he will have found a way to lighten another's load by day's end.
A soft spoken and humble individual by nature, he does not see the things he does for and with others as anything needing recognition.
Ferguson is this month's "Hey! That's My Neighbor" honoree. He was nominated for the honor by St. Clairsville resident Nancy Moore.
"He volunteers regularly at Red Cross Blood Donor Day, is a lay leader of his church, transports elderly neighbors and is the kindest person I know," said Moore in her nomination of Ferguson, noting he is in his 90s.
Ferguson long ago retired from his years as a central office repairman with Ohio Bell, and eventually became an active and engaged member of the Pioneers service organization that was closely tied to the major phone company of the day.
"I worked there back when they still had the 'hello girls' on the switchboards," he said, referring to the iconic greeting offered even then by live operators plugging in countless connections and sharing a personal greeting to every person they connected to through their phone banks.
"Hello, how can I help you?"
Ferguson has spent most of his life in and around Belmont County, and has particularly strong ties to the communities of Fairpoint, St. Clairsville and Bridgeport. The things that make his connections strongest with the communities he holds closest to his heart can be traced back to common roots: his faith and the churches in which he has and does worship, and his schooling.
If you wonder what a person in their 90s has to look forward to in addition to traveling up and down the local roadways with friends in his silver HHR, the answer is: "plenty."
At the moment, he is looking forward to attending an annual reunion at the Polish Club in Fairpoint being hosted for all students who attended school in Fairpoint.
Then there is his weekly bowling date with friends and teammates.
Ferguson is a longtime member of the Golden Bowler's league at St. Clair Lanes. His team is "Harry's Hammers."
Can his teammates count on him to be there and to be willing to bowl a couple games? Just try and stop him from coming through with flying colors whenever he is asked to help out - regardless the need.
Not only do his friends know they can count on him to bowl a solid game, he is always available and willing to share a brief prayer of support, compassion or celebration if the group has need of it during the weekly bowling activities.
While his average may not knock anyone over at first glance, it likely would if they were to realize the bowler just happens to be 91 years young and one of the most popular guys at the lanes every week.
For quite a long time, Ferguson was heavily involved in the operations of the Bridgeport Methodist Church, serving as a lay leader and Sunday school teacher often focusing on classes for adult Sunday School attendees.
Several years ago, Ferguson decided it was time to push the envelope in order to successfully expand his religious horizons, so he started selecting churches across the region to attend for weekly worship.
"I decided to free myself up from responsibilities at my church and branch out a little. I wanted to hear other preacher's slants on certain subjects," he said.
At age 91, Ferguson still has a few items he hopes to achieve in the coming years as he heads toward that 100th birthday in a few years: travel to Hawaii.
Not an unreasonable goal for a guy who has set foot in every other state.
He is the type of person who puts others at ease quickly no matter the situation, and who always is willing to extend a hand in genuine friendship and accompany it with a warm smile.
Don't think by having reached age 91 that you can expect to find him sitting around in a rocking chair passing the day.
That just does not and will not happen, if Ferguson has anything to say about it.
He is a man on the move, and more often than not can be found helping friends and neighbors in need of transportation simply by offering them a ride to wherever they need to go at that moment.
His willingness to help out others has become almost a trademark - a reflection of his generous and humble spirit, particularly when it comes to providing safe and reliable transportation to many of the destinations we all typically frequent on a day-to-day basis without giving a second thought to the essential details of how to get there and back.
"I like to drive, and I like helping people out. I will drive people to places they need to go for things like shopping, doctor's appointments, church, meetings and such."
If you have ever donated blood at a regular collection site in the immediate area, it is likely you have shaken his hand, enjoyed a brief conversation as you awaited stepping into the process of donation, and may even have spent a few minutes of conversation, as is often his habit when volunteering as a greeter for such events.
"Yes, I do take people around if they need to go somewhere and don't have a ride," is typically his unassuming explanation of how he can often be found spending a morning or afternoon, by helping someone else with the simple tasks of everyday life for no other reason that he enjoys making life a little easier or better for others.
In his eyes, that is more than enough of a reason to do something to help out the next person.
Nominate your neighbor!
Send your name and phone number, the nominee's name and phone number and the reason for their nomination to Shaunna Dunder Hershberger, The Times Leader, 200 S. Fourth St., Martins Ferry, Ohio 43935 or email firstname.lastname@example.org