Obituary: Caryl Jane (Barnett) Ferguson, 81, Ludington.

April 3, 2020

Caryl Jane (Barnett) Ferguson

Obituary: Caryl Jane (Barnett) Ferguson, 81, Ludington.

Caryl Jane (Barnett) Ferguson of Ludington, Michigan passed away in Sarasota, Florida on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at age 81 from complications after open-heart surgery. It was only recently she learned the source and severity of her impairment: a calcified mitral valve, undiagnosed and untreated for many decades. This “rheumatic valve” stemmed from childhood rheumatic fever she’d suffered as a five-year-old. In the end, after a bright and inspiring life, she deemed herself “Too pooped to participate.”
Caryl was predeceased by her parents, Harold “Barney” Barnett and Bertelle (Broom) Barnett, and by her husband of 50 years, Robert “Bob” Ferguson, who died in 2010. 
Born on December 10, 1938 in Pontiac, Caryl Jane Barnett was raised on the shores of Lake Michigan, after moving to Ludington with her family in 1944. After graduating from Ludington High School in 1956, Caryl attended Michigan State University, where she received a degree in early childhood education in 1960.

While home from college one summer, Caryl was set up on a blind date with Bob Ferguson, a lifeguard and summer resident at Epworth Heights. The Ludington “townie” and “Epworthian” dated for several years before marrying in 1959. Caryl and Bob had 2 children: Karen Ferguson Bagwell of Fountain, MI and Sarah Ferguson, who recently moved from Washington, DC to Ludington to be a caretaker and companion for her mom.  
Caryl will be missed by many, including the dozens of nieces and nephews who remember her as “my favorite aunt,” “a shining light,” and  “my biggest cheerleader.” While staying at The Open Door — the cottage at Epworth owned by Bob’s family — her nieces and nephews by the carload would descend on Aunt Caryl’s house for a summer dessert and hours of laughter.
She will also be missed by the women and girls for whom she had been a confidant during difficult periods in their lives, a fact learned by her family only after she died.
An avid reader, Caryl remained active in two book groups. Night-owl neighbors could spot her in the early-morning hours, reclined in her favorite chair, spellbound by a novel or her latest non-fiction find.
Book groups were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Caryl’s community involvement. She was a lifetime champion of causes for women and girls, and so was thrilled to find herself simpatico with the many friends she made as a member of P.E.O, a philanthropic organization that supports and celebrates women in their educational pursuits. 
The documented evidence of Caryl’s generosity as a volunteer and patron goes on for page after page. A small sample includes: Member and chair of the Big Rapids Zoning Board of Appeals; founding member, president and secretary of the Epworth Historical Society; Girl Scout troop leader for six years (and three years as county co-chairman); and, until just a few months before her death, board member of the Mason County Historical Society and secretary for her local P.E.O chapter. Though still actively grieving her husband Bob’s death in 2010, she did talk about one empowering plus: She could be as generous as she wanted to be to the people and causes she cared about.
A sense of humor and a playful nature were two of Caryl’s signature traits.
She liked to sing and dance, despite noticeable deficits, particularly in her singing abilities. While her daughters would cover their ears and tease, “Oww, Mom, you’re hurting us!” she would grin and continue her merry singing. When her children — and then grandchildren — were little, Caryl lovingly chased them around the house, while threatening (with a huge smile and sparkling eyes) to hug and kiss them with her characteristic wild enthusiasm.  
She was colorful, literally and figuratively. Her clothing was often wildly multi-colored, like joy-in-fabric, and her surroundings reflected her personality, as well. When her house on Hamlin Lake needed a new roof, she ordered a metal one — in fire engine red! She loved to tell people (while laughing) how her neighbor, upon seeing it for the first time, asked, “Didn’t it come in any other color?” 
Compulsively creative, handy, and resourceful, Caryl was a dumpster diver and beachcomber. She was always fashioning something new from everyday objects, including a stylish coffee table from an old wooden ironing board, earthy hanging sculptures from oddly shaped driftwood, and a planter from an old rain boot. Whimsy combined with practicality was a way of life for Caryl, as evidenced by the colorful socks and Birkenstock sandals she wore from early spring until the snow got too deep.
A woman with pizazz and a down-to-earth lack of decorum, hilarity would often ensue if you spent much time with Caryl. To remember her or get a sense of who she was, just sit down with her favorite movie (The Birdcage) or find Tim Conway’s dentist skit online, and get ready to laugh. 
In addition to her daughters, Caryl is survived by her granddaughters, Cally McShane of Asheville, North Carolina, and Dana McShane of Traverse City, Michigan; and her sisters, Kay Combs of Ludington, Beverly Barnett of Wilmington, Delaware, and Deanna Velick, also of Ludington. 
A memorial service for Caryl will be held in the late summer or early fall.

Arrangements were entrusted to Oak Grove Funeral Home of Ludington, www.OakGroveLudington.com

 

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