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Alan Deans Ferguson

Alan Deans Ferguson (1957?-2012)

 An Obituary of Alan / It Has Been Almost a Year Since Alan Died / I Thought I Would Write About What He Was Like / And What it Was Like to Be Close to Him

Reprinted from Sage Words, July 2, 2013

by Leslie Walsh


Alan Deans Ferguson died in September, 2012. The date of Alan’s birth is not precise, because he was an orphan, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, adopted by a Presbyterian minister from Glasgow, Dr. Robert Ferguson and Mrs. Ferguson, but his birthday was January second, and he was fifty-five years old when he died, so you can do the math.

When Alan was twelve years old, his family, his sister, Elizabeth, his parents, and his brother, moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, from Glasgow. Dr. Ferguson obtained a position as pastor of the largest Presbyterian congregation there.

Alan rebelled against the church, and became an atheist, went through some of the hippie culture, experimentation, etc., in high school, did some college, and moved to the UK, as a young adult, and then to Germany where he married Beate, and had three daughters.

The marriage did not last, and Alan left his family, and went back to the United States. He and his wife remained amicable, and he had lots of visitation, with his kids, and his wife as well, since she was fond of him, I suppose.

He did not embrace the church. However, his father, Dr. Ferguson, only died a few months before Alan. He did embrace his parents’ extremely conservative political views, but it may have been just a way to seem different from all his liberal peers. All his friends were Democrats and liberals. He was very opinionated. Once he, his friend Danny, and I went out to lunch at a nice bistro, and on the way, I said, “You can’t talk about politics around Alan.”

Danny said, “With Alan, you just have to listen to him talk about politics.” That was true.

We had other good times, going out with Danny. Once we all went out to hear one of my son’s gigs. I was really drunk, and was playing and singing a few songs. My son, David, made me stop, saying I sounded drunk. Alan and Danny said I sounded great. That very same summer evening, my ex-husband showed up there too, to hear David. Alan asked him, “Was Sage (Sage being the name he always called me) always like she is now?”

My ex-husband told him, “Exactly the same.” 

Alan always played European disco sounding music, or Latin, in his car. He was snobby about American musicians. He liked Roy Harper a lot, and the more recent pop star Adele, until everyone else started to like her too, and she became really famous. He even liked Lady Gaga.

What I liked about Alan was the way he looked when he took a drag on his cigarette. I thought he looked like Anderson Cooper, who is really hot. We once ran into my sister and brother-in-law in the Thai restaurant. We sat and had dinner with them. My sister had never met Alan before. She said, “Alan, you are very handsome.” She does not hand out compliments often, especially to men.

I liked the way he took me out, and he always paid, and bought me whatever I wanted, within reason of course. I would not ask for much. He also took me on trips to Columbia, and even Laurens, South Carolina, six hours away, on family business, my family business. He was an excellent driver, too.

I like the way he liked shopping and decorating, and his enthusiasm, his aestheticism. I liked his good hygiene and cleanliness, and the fact that he cooked.

I liked the fact that he worked two jobs, had a work ethic. When Alan was dying of stage 4 pancreatic cancer, one of his jobs had a fund for people in situations like this, where he had medical bills, and was getting to where he was no longer going to be able to work. He worked for as long as he possibly could.

Although he had his quirks and weirdness, like everyone, or maybe even more, he was a good person, not religious, but morally honest and decent.

Since Alan was only given about four months to live, with no treatment options besides pain management, his mother and sister came to see him. I got to meet them, but it was under such sad circumstances. His mother, naturally, had terrible sorrow in her eyes. Her husband, Alan’s father, had passed away, only the last Christmas. She was bereaved about Alan’s terminal illness, but I sensed a stoicism in her, in a positive way, that is.

Alan was saddened by the fact that he was dying, and yet he comforted me when I was crying, although I just said I was depressed, not that I was crying because he was dying. He asked me if I wanted to lie next to him on the futon, in my living room. I did, and he held me. Then he took us out, to get some Thai take-out food, which we brought back to my place. We watched some comedies on VHS, that he brought over, and I cheered up a little.

Lastly, he was quite intelligent, and spoke well. He had a good vocabulary, and I learned big words from him, which I now use, such as sophomoric and disingenuous.

I only had one picture of Alan, with his kids, and it got misplaced somehow, so I posted a picture of the ocean, since he loved it so much. He always rented an apartment right near the beach, and loved living in Myrtle Beach, because of the ocean. He intended to stay here for the rest of his life, which is exactly what he did.


Care to share?

One Response to Alan Deans Ferguson

  • I so sorry to have read this. Alan and I became friends at a YCC camp in Alabama in 1977. After having lost connect with him for decades, I was hoping to locate Alan when I instead read his obituary this evening. Words cannot paint my grief for thee… In a dark time in my life, you introduced me to good tea with cream, Tolkien, and Robert Wyatt. I need to listen to Rock Bottom and remember. Sleep well, my dear friend.

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