On Tuesday, April 18, the Navy held plane-side honors for the late Lieutenant Eric Ferguson, complete with a water salute where firehoses sprayed water over the United Airlines plane. It was an incredibly moving tribute where Ferguson’s commanding officer flew in from Japan, a contingency of sailors from Great Lakes attended, as well as numerous policemen, firemen and security detail – all of whom saluted as his coffin was lowered to the ground and carried to the hearse by sailors.
Here, we share the life story of a young Black man who served his country and fellowmen throughout his life.
Eric Wesley Ferguson was born in Chicago on June 2, 1985, to Fay Holmes Ferguson and Ernest Ferguson. Eric died in Yokosuka, Japan on March 30, 2017, at the age of 31.
He attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools for elementary and junior high school where he served as the head representative of the Black Students’ Association whose goal was to raise scholarship money.
Ferguson transferred to Francis W. Parker for high school, graduating in June 2003. He was one of ten students chosen to represent the school at the National Association of Independent Schools’ Conference on Race and Gender and at the University of Illinois Early Outreach Program for minority students. He helped tutor lower and middle school students in reading and writing, something that he found to be deeply fulfilling.
As a child, Ferguson developed a love of airplanes and experienced the thrill of a lifetime while attending summer camp at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. At the age of 17, he flew his first solo flight and was hooked forever.
Ferguson attended Embry Riddle at age 18. While there, he was named to the Dean’s List, was a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Sophomore/Junior Advisory Board and the Sport Compact Import Racing Car Club. He also attended Embry Riddle’s Study Abroad Program in Paris, France. Ferguson graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical science and received his private pilot’s license.
After Embry Riddle, Ferguson attended Gulf Stream Training Academy where his dream of flying came true. As a pilot for Continental Connection, Ferguson flew throughout Florida, the Bahamas and Cuba. After 9/11, Ferguson realized he wanted to serve our country and was soon accepted into Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, Rhode Island. The Navy’s OCS prepared Eric to be physically tough, mentally strong and always part of a team. He loved the military. His naval career took him from San Diego to Japan, rising through the ranks, from Ensign to Lieutenant.
An only child, he will be missed by his mother and father, Fay Holmes Ferguson and Ernie Ferguson of Chicago; his loving and devoted grandmother Betty Ferguson; his aunts Gerri Virgil, Gale Holmes Norman, Marsha Evans Holmes and Great Aunt Ethel M. Smalls; cousins Rachel Hannah McCoy, Elizabeth Littlejohn (Andre), Kathlene Holmes, John Holmes (Valerie), Howie Norman (Blair), Marguerita, Gloria and Gabe Lance; his uncle Bobby Ferguson; and his dear fiancée Annalyn (Rheanne) Matsushita.
“He was truly a special son, loving friend, talented human being and gift to us all. We are so grateful and blessed for the time spent with him,’ says the family in his obituary.
One of his last acts was to talk about Allies of Innocence at a Women’s History Event in Japan.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Ferguson’s honor to Allies of Innocence, a tax deductible 501(c) 3 initiative created by his mother, Fay Ferguson and championed by Eric. Allies of Innocence provides free grief and trauma counseling to survivors of gun violence in Chicago.