Photographic technician, father, mentor, iconoclast, Blue Jays fan. Born June 28, 1946, in Toronto, died Jan. 29, 2013, in Sharon, Ont., of a heart attack, aged 66.
Jamie felt about flying the way a field mouse feels about the eagle that has it in its talons. He also loved whisky almost as much as he hated flying. Aboard an Air India flight from Toronto to London, the flight attendant asked what he would like to drink. “Scotch,” he said, “about seven of them.”
Imagine his delight when she sauntered back down the aisle with a tray of seven glasses of whisky. Jamie drank them all and passed out. Awaking on arrival in London, he said it was the best flight he’d ever had.
That was Jamie for you.
He was the second son of Joseph and Mildred Ferguson, a house painter and stenographer known for big hearts and small wallets. He grew up in the Toronto suburb of Willowdale. His career trajectory took him into photographic technology. For 35 years, he managed the photographic arts labs at York University.
But running the labs did not tell all about Jamie’s contribution. Christopher Jackson, an art historian and curator who worked with Jamie for five years, recalls: “Jamie helped students close to the financial line by hiring them as lab monitors. He was a mentor, one of the few who’d give an honest opinion of a student’s work. He was a teacher when the professors weren’t there.”
Jamie asserted his independence, often to the chagrin of the administration. “He’d work with other employees on the filing of grievances,” says Jackson. “He was legendary for taking on management on behalf of a custodian or tradesman. He was more successful than not: I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the other side.”
Jamie’s greater challenge, however, was making a family. He married Ann Claydon in 1975, on his 29th birthday. They tried for seven years to have children. Those challenging times included two miscarriages and a slew of medical tests, fertility drugs and surgical procedures.
When Jamie and Ann finally succeeded, sons Nicholas and Andrew understandably became the pride of their lives. Jamie coached their baseball teams and had them rooting for his beloved Blue Jays.
Both boys graduated with honours from York, Nick in nursing and Andrew in environmental studies. Nick works now as a registered nurse, while Andrew is taking a second degree in landscape architecture.
In his latter years, Jamie honed his talent for making people laugh. He put the imp in impropriety. Only he could get away with the stories that enabled him to crack up a roomful of strangers. To quote the author Rafael Sabatini, “He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”
Jeremy Ferguson is Jamie’s brother.