Polio victim, father, lawyer, judge, artist, author, Renaissance man. Born Aug. 23, 1923, in Montreal. Died June 15, 2011, in Toronto of a ruptured aortic aneurysm, aged 87.
George Ferguson was many things to many people, but to his children, Steve, Michael and Diana, he was an inspiration, a mentor and an adviser. He was also a lawyer and judge; a hockey and football coach; an artist and bridge player. To many others, he was an employer, a companion and friend.
George was one of two children of Gladys and Brophy Ferguson. In 1925, the family moved from Montreal to Toronto. Glad was a proud housewife and Brophy became the owner and publisher of Gossip magazine.
Always active in athletics as a youth, George competed in hockey and baseball, but he was particularly passionate about figure skating. He captured the Toronto Skating Club's championship for novice skater under 14 in the spring of 1937. However, that September, he became a victim of the polio outbreak, spending most of the autumn in hospital. Polio, and overcoming it, largely defined his life. Paralysis of his legs led to his lifelong use of crutches and braces.
George always recalled his stalwart mother's advice: "Laugh at your own difficulties," she said. "Those who are true friends will laugh with you. Sympathy from others will never strengthen your determination to succeed."
He also never forgot his father's words that motivated him to push on when the going was tough – to focus on what he could do, not what he couldn't. George was not going to let polio interfere with his enjoyment of a full and rewarding life.
In 1948, he met his future wife, Diana, at a wedding at a cottage on Lake Simcoe. They were married until her death from cancer in 2006.
Upon completion of high school at University of Toronto Schools in 1941, followed by four years at the University of Toronto's Trinity College and two years at Osgoode Hall Law School, George became a successful practising lawyer. He worked in criminal law, then labour law. In 1976, he was appointed to the bench in Toronto, retiring at the mandatory age of 75 in 1998.
George felt that success in life was measured by what you gave back. He became president of the Ontario March of Dimes in 1952. In retirement, he became a part-time special consultant to the Toronto Police Service. In between he was on the board of St. George's College, Wilfrid Laurier University and Humber College. His numerous hobbies included bridge, playing piano and pastel drawing.
In his memoirs, George wrote philosophically about "treasuring the early realization that you had better get on with life, knowing you will have to depend on your mind and not your body."
His passions, along with his devotion to his family and his commitment to his profession and public service, illustrate that, by anyone's definition, he was wildly successful.
By Steve Ferguson, George's son.