Larry J. Ferguson 1943-2013
Larry James Ferguson died peacefully at his home April 28, 2013, after a 10-year struggle with chordoma, a rare type of bone cancer.
Larry was born October 10, 1943 in Fremont, Michigan and grew up in Newaygo, a small rural town in western Michigan located on the Muskegon River. He was a National Merit Scholar, and the scholarship money he received enabled him to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he earned a B.A. in 1965 and his J.D. in 1967. He sat for and passed the bar exam in his last term of law school. He then entered the Peace Corps and was assigned to southern India to promote family planning, an experience that framed his future and provided the incentive to pursue law for the good of his community.
He returned to the U.S. via Southeast Asia in 1970, and upon his return, he clerked for Judge Charles Levin of the Michigan Court of Appeals for a year before entering private practice in Detroit, first with the firm of Travis, Warren, Nayer & Burgoyne, and then with Wunch, Aikens & Ohlgren. He left that firm in 1975 to join the Ann Arbor firm of Ellis, Talcott & Ohlgren, PC, which later became Ellis, Talcott, Ohlgren & Ferguson, PC.
During his tenure at the Ellis Talcott firm, he also served on the Michigan Board of Law Examiners from 1978 to 1982 and served as Director of the University of Michigan Law School Low Income Taxpayer Clinic from 1981-1982.
Larry was joined at the Ellis Talcott firm in 1986 by Warren Widmayer, starting a close friendship and professional union that lasted over 26 years. They left that firm together in 1989 and eventually formed Ferguson Widmayer & Clark PC in 1991. They moved the firm to its current location in the historic Henry Cornwell House at 538 North Division in 1998. Larry was loved, admired and respected by those who worked with him and he and his colleagues formed a closely-knit and devoted "work family."
As an attorney Larry was unique in his creativity and ability to synthesize legal concepts into sophisticated solutions for his tax and estate planning clients. He was recognized by his peers as an accomplished practitioner through his election as a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel in 1995 and through his repeated inclusion in the "Best Lawyers in America" each year since 1996 and "Michigan Super Lawyers" each year since 2003.
Aside from his professional pursuits, Larry was active in the 1970's in the Michigan Democratic Party as a convention delegate and worker on many political campaigns. He was treasurer of several candidates' campaigns, including the successful campaign of Albert Wheeler for Mayor of the City of Ann Arbor. He was instrumental in the creation of the third party formed to elect independent Charles Levin to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1972. He was also a member of the Ann Arbor Historic Commission and the Boards of Directors of Huron Valley Ambulance and the Washtenaw Council for the Arts. Larry co-founded the Professional Volunteer Corps in Ann Arbor in the early 1990's and spent many weekends volunteering as a laborer for nonprofits. His pro bono work included many of Washtenaw County's nonprofits from Performance Network to the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor to the Humane Society of Huron Valley to assisting his daughter, Ariana, in creating her national nonprofit, Military Partners and Families Coalition in 2011.
Larry was a consummate storyteller, historian and an astute observer of human nature and world events. He had an uncanny ability to rattle off aphorisms that more often than not were his own original formulations. He despised bigotry, bullies and oppression, but blended his sympathy for the downtrodden with a healthy respect for self-reliance and hard work, traits he shared with most of his successful clients. In spite of disappointments and frustration with the court system, Larry believed that the law was intended to produce justice and he often undertook representation of seemingly hopeless causes simply because he deemed it the right thing to do.
Larry's personal life centered on a family he cherished beyond words. His children, Ariana and Galen, and his wife, Andra, were his guiding stars, his fun, and his reason for fighting his disease for so long. He did not want to miss any of the successes his children achieved, and he loved the bragging rights each provided. Though he was their stepfather, they considered him their dad; he was the role model they admired and needed. For his family, he was the center that held.
He traveled extensively in his spare time and ultimately visited all 50 states in the union as well as numerous foreign destinations. He particularly enjoyed scuba diving around the world.
He was a man of honor, duty and true character. To say he will be missed is not enough - he leaves a legacy of strong unwavering ethics and good will, a wicked sense of humor and endless great stories that cannot be replaced, only retold by those that loved him so much.
In addition to his wife, Andra Bostian Ferguson and children, Ariana Bostian-Kentes and Galen Bostian-Kentes, he is survived by his son and daughter from a previous marriage, Daniel Ferguson and Tamara (Tammy) Ferguson; granddaughter Sharon; great-granddaughters Savanah and Amaya; his mother, Nancy Ferguson; and his siblings James Ferguson, Ralph Ferguson and Nancy Jean Ferguson.
Consistent with his wishes, his body has been cremated. An open house memorial celebration will be held on Wednesday, May 22, from 2-5 p.m. at Barton Hills Country Club. Those wishing to honor his memory can contribute either to his daughter's nonprofit, Military Partners and Families Coalitin or to the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.