William (Bill) Nichol Ferguson

February 14th, 2021

Bill was born in the back seat of a car racing up Commercial Drive in Vancouver heading to the hospital. At 16 he left home to make 50 cents an hour setting chokers on Vancouver Island and around the Lower Mainland.  He became active in the IWA at the height of the cold war when anti-communism was rampant, but he recognized that it was the communists who fought for workers rights. He became a staunch socialist and had principles second to none in defending workers rights, peace, disarmament, and social justice. In 1953, during a long fire season, he drove his father in law’s truck to his farm in Kamloops. He then settled in Kamloops with his wife Charmian (Chum) and raised their family. He continued to work as a logger, but in 1959 went to work as a labourer for the City of Kamloops. He quickly became active in the City union (NUPE) and was instrumental in the joining of the two main unions in Canada to form CUPE.  Bill was the last surviving union member from those at the 1963 founding convention of CUPE. From 1968 to 1982 he worked as a Business Agent for CUPE. He organized Units of CUPE Local 900 far and wide: down the Fraser Canyon to Hope, up the North Thompson to Blue River, over to Merritt, and Vernon. In Kamloops, the School District and University were added to the local.  He loved the working class and fought for them relentlessly. In 1982 he returned to work for the City until his retirement in 1994. After retirement he continued attending union and Labour Council meetings. In 2011 CUPE National honoured him at their annual Convention with a standing ovation from the 2500 delegates as they saluted his more than 60 years of service to the union movement. He was a founding member of the Kamloops Peace Council, often a spokesperson at the annual Walk for Peace, and always a participant. During the Vietnam war, Bill and Chum’s house on West St Paul was a safe haven for draft dodgers and deserters, helping them escape from the war.  Until his last breath he kept up with world events, always with his nose in a journal, despairing at the global crisis we face. He still had hope we could make a better world for the next generation. He was an avid gardener, keeping family and neighbours fed from his bountiful crop, and loved nothing more than to help people learn how to produce their own gardens. Summertime would find him and Chum camping in their little trailer at one of our local lakes, always with a faithful dog at their side. He loved jazz, classical music and the poetry of Robert Service; still able to recite from memory The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew.

Bill leaves behind the love of his life and wife of 69 years, Charmian (Chum), his sons Brian, Glenn and Jeff (Janet), daughter Kathy; grandchildren Jennifer, Sarah, Emily, Linsay, Thea, Chase and Will; great grandchildren Juniper, Zoey, Griffin, Amelie, Silas, Astrid and Sojie, and his main comrade Dave Werlin (Karen), plus many other friends.  He was predeceased by his son Doug, grandsons Jim, Chris and Brandon, siblings Marjorie, Vivian, Harry, Fred and Bruce, parents Fred and Leah.

Bill left a legacy for working people, not just in Kamloops, but across this Country.  Rest peacefully Bill - you’ve earned it.

Messages:

Learned of Bill's passing just now - a month later. The entire Ferguson family were good friends, neighbours and customers as we all lived in Rayleigh through the sixties. Last family contact was about eight? years ago at the annual Labour Day festivities in McDonald Park where my daughter and I had a nice chat with Brian. Condolences to entire family.

We are so sorry to learn of Bill's passing and send our deepest condolences to Chum, Brian, Kathy, Glenn, Jeff and families. Bill was an incredible man and we know that the family can take comfort in knowing that his was a life well lived. He will be missed.

I knew Bill casually in my newsroom position with the Kamloops Daily Sentinel in the 70's and 80's but not as much as later when, after leaving the newsroom, I was appointed chair of the Employment Insurance Board of Referees. The board was comprised of an appointee as chair, a member drawn from labour and a member drawn from management. Bill, along with Jack Kerssens, were 2 major influences from the labour side. Bill was famed for his folder of case histories and judicial findings that assisted his deliberation. I found that Bill was tough but fair and not someone who would automatically take a position without justification. He was easy to argue with, as we did often, but never failed to validate his position with evidence. It's been years since those times, and sadly Jack and now Bill are no longer with us. I would like to pass on my condolences to Bill's family, and reiterate that he was a man who lived large and on his own terms.

Bill Ferguson: The last of the Titans. Members now have to fight outside our own Union to try to get the employer to acknowledge the collective agreement. Today our own Union leadership chooses to ignore the collective agreement on seniority for promotions in favour of, "other members could benefit" over the most senior by being complicit with the employer, testing those not given the opportunity to be trained in the subject. By being complicit with the employer the Union is forcing its members to either quit, quit fighting or reveal their personal, private and confidential medical conditions to merely be treated as a human being. I will always remember Bill fighting for me when I was laid off but "required" to come in for one day screwing up my second employment who were actually paying me that day. He walked in screaming and using his usual expletives, "if you * require Dorman to * come in, then you * pay him to be available". It was within days "on-call" was paid for, to all. In solidarity brother...........

My father Albert worked with Bill for many years at The City Of Kamloops and spoke of him often with respect and admiration.The champion of the working man.RIP Bill.

The world has lost a great man. KDLC will always miss Bill's great wisdom. My condolescences to the family and friends.

We have lost a great Canadian. Deepest sympathy to the Ferguson family.

RIP Uncle Bill, it is so sad that we can't all get together and give hugs to all my cousins, Auntie Chum and the rest of the large family. Bill lived a very fulfilling life. Lorne and I will miss raising a glass of his homemade beer with him. Our condolences to all the family.

We are so sorry to read about Bill's passing. Our deepest condolences to all of Bill's family. I (Patty) met Bill in 1981 when I first started at the City of Kamloops. I will admit at first he scared the heck out of me, I was very young and new to a Union. However, over the years I got to know him and realized what a great man he was and how much he truly cared for the "working guy/gal". Thank you Bill for all you did!!!

I was introduced to Bill Ferguson about a decade ago. A couple comrades and I, in our early twenties, decided to reach out to the local KDLC to learn what was going on in our community regarding workers' rights and organizations. We had recently formed the TRUSU Socialists Club on campus, with a basic understanding of Marxism and working-class politics. We were probably more committed to the politics and club than the formal education of campus life. At our initiative, Peter Kerek, then chair of the Labour Council, joined us for a meeting and invited our attendance as guests at the KDLC. After a few KDLC meetings, a beer or two at the Frick and Frack, and some stories (that included travel to the old USSR's 50th year on his part, and Cuba's 50th on ours,) Bill gave me a box of old Monthly Review magazines he had kicking around "if I'd read them". After reading a few of these issues I bought myself a subscription. Then an upgraded subscription. (To this day I pass an extra one around to anyone interested enough to read about social and environmental justice.) He did a whole lot more for all of us than I could have imagined at the time. Reading his obituary, I see he was a super humble man. It's an honour to have spent any time at all around Bill, and I did not adequately appreciate then what an amazing influence he had been beyond what was a major intellectual turning point in my life until reading this. To know that this was the guy sitting across from us at the Frick and Frack isn't entirely surprising, but was not fully appreciated at the time. A year or two after our KDLC meetings, I decided to take a break from school, get to work, and go traveling. Some of us from the club graduated, some of us moved. The KDLC supported one of these trips - to the World Festival of Youth and Students in Ecuador, which was not your average getaway. We heard of the brutal repression in Latin America from those that had experienced it first-hand- with trails of money and corruption that more often than not lead back to Canadian and American business and political interests. We also learned from national and international social movements that were making serious gains at this time in Latin America, who were then preparing for the onslaught of US and right-wing aggression hitting the continent hard today. This trip was an eye opening experience that Bill had a hand in supporting through the Labour Council. Ever since, I read a lot of Monthly Review. But I didn't have enough conversations with Bill. When eventually we reformed our campus Socialists Club around 2015, it took on a different life. More committed to the formal education component (sociology and political science), the MRs and knowledge Bill passed with them took on a double importance. And though we never managed to find the time to attend KDLC meetings as a group again, (my friend Jeff came back for Law school this time) we would often recall how cool it was that we had sat down and had a beer with Bill Ferguson, the guy who spent his whole life working for peace, justice, and international socialism, and after so much, was still cool enough to have a beer and talk about it seriously with us, eye still fixed to the future. He didn't have to keep attending those meetings, but he did, and he was still having a positive impact. It was virtually a ritual for Jeff and I to talk about getting back in touch with Bill and the KDLC when we'd get together. We got as far as asking Peter Kerek about this about a year and a bit ago. In the later years of our campus lives we never found the time. Then we moved in different directions, then the virus. It's a profound disappointment to know that this will not happen, especially with the theoretical comprehension to better appreciate what he knew better than any of us in both theory and practice. There are a lot of things we wanted to talk with him about, and Bill's dignified life was nothing short of remarkable. I just learned of his passing in the newspaper. Not unpredictable at his age, but no less of a loss. It's people like him we ought to remember when the chips are down and things look rough: Don't stop challenging capitalist production. Have a vision. Get organized, don't stop learning, and press on. It's always worth it. And you may never quite know the effect you're having on people. Condolences to his family and those who knew him better than we had a chance to.

So sad to hear of Bill's passing. A life well lived. Hugs to you all. He will be missed.

Bill Ferguson was my best friend and comrade. Over the almost 60 years we knew each other, we spent a lot of time in meetings and conventions fighting for our fellow workers. We also went fishing, spent hours walking picket lines, joining peace marches, protesting injustices, and traveled together to Cuba. And on special occasions, we enjoyed having a glass or two of scotch. I could always count on Bill, who had a sharp mind and a great ability to analyze and make sense of what was really happening. We spent countless hours talking about the impact of the latest political scandal, where organized labour was headed and, most importantly, the need to build a better world. Bill was an optimist and never lost faith in the working class. He always said that one day they will organize themselves, throw out the greedy capitalist system and form their own version of a socio-economic society, a society that is fair to all regardless of race, color, or religion. One that will always champion peace and put an end to war. Bill and Chum raised a family of 5 children who they exposed to the importance of seeing the best in people and advocating for peace and social justice. Bill’s strong faith in the working class, his trade union values and his many contributions to society will be long missed. On behalf of Karen and myself, I offer condolences to Chum and the family as we raise a glass in tribute to a great friend and comrade. In solidarity, Dave Werlin

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