Joseph Lester Ferrgus Jr., was born August 29, 1928 in Chattanooga and graduated from Chattanooga High School in 1946. He attended the University of Chattanooga for two years where he was a member of scouting’s Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and Lambda Chi Alpha social fraternity. At the University of Tennessee, he graduated in 1950 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and was elected to Tau Beta Pi and Phi Kappa Phi scholastic societies and was a charter member of Pi Tau Sigma honorary ME society.
He enlisted in the Air Force January 1951 and was sent to Lackland AFB, TX for basic training. He then was transferred to Wright-Patterson AFB, OH and engaged in simulated flight testing of a ramjet model in a small wind tunnel and technical reporting. In December of 1952, he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and assigned to Lowry AFB, CO for training in electronic countermeasures. He was discharged from active duty in August 1953 and retired from the Air Force Reserve as a Captain in 1961.
In October 1953, he was employed by ARO, Inc. at the Arnold Engineering Development Center for an exciting and challenging 37 year career. His early tenure included testing, data analysis and technical reporting for fighter aircraft turbine engines. He the engaged in rocket engine development testing. A unique experience was associated with a one of a kind test facility, a cryogenically cooled test cell for ultra high altitude ground testing of space propulsion systems. Operability and performance were evaluated for the lunar landing and ascent stage rocket engines and other rockets for NASA and AG space systems. He reverted then to development testing and performance evaluation of the air launched cruise missile engine. His last duty was test data analysis engineer for an engine for the F22 fighter.
During his tenure, he was principal or co-author of over 25 technical reports and four technical paper presentations. Professional membership affiliations were the National Society of Professional Engineers, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, National Management Association and American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Mr. Fergus was a member of the First United Methodist Church having served on several committees and boards and was a lay speaker at area Methodist churches. He was a member of the Strangely Warmed Sunday school class, joined the Methodist Men on local projects and volunteered for three mission teams to support churches in Central America.
An avid scouter for over 60 years, he served as an adult leader on the Troop and exploer post unit levels, the Elk River District committee and Executive Board of the Middle Tennessee Council. He earned the Scouters Key and Scoutmasters Key and was awarded the council Long Rifle and Silver Beaver. As a member of the National Eagle Scout Association he received the silver Wreath. A highlight of his scouting experience was serving as the council’s ’79 contingent leader to Philmout Scout Ranch in Cimarron, NM. He completed Wood Badge training and later served as a staffer. Another privilege was staff service at the 1977, 1993, 1997 and 2001 National Scout Jamborees. Aside from his enjoyable outdoor experiences with boy scouts he delighted in donning a simulated period uniform of the founder of the world scouting Lord Robert Baden-Powell. Attending scout units he would describe how Baden-Powell’s career in the British military prepared him to start world wide scouting and develop the handbooks for training boys and adult leaders.
In 1971 the family moved from Tullahoma to a small farm in north Franklin Co. to accommodate the fervent love of horses. The family enjoyed many local trail rides and activities with the Tullahoma Saddle Club. After the children left a friend from Chattanooga encouraged Mrs. Fergus to start a program of therapeutic horseback riding for handicapped children. A small indoor arena was constructed in 1995 by the Fergus’s and the founded Horse Play in 1996 at their Double J Ranch. To accommodate handicapped adults as well as children, Freedom Friends was founded in 2001 and operated thru 2010. He was grateful for the many volunteers and donors who made the programs succeed. A major contributor to these programs was the TN Valley Paso Fino Horse Association where he served several years as chairman for their statewide trail rides.
He is preceded in death by his beloved wife of 63 years, Jean James Fergus. He is survived by daughters, Dr. Victoria Jane Fergus of Morgantown, WV, Brenda Catherine Fergus Watson and her husband Don of Paducah, KY, son, James Gary Fergus of Tullahoma, granddaughter, Zannie Leia Brewer of Nashville, grandson, Zachary Fergus Thacker of Paducah, KY, and nephew, Peter Leonard Palmer and his wife Donna of Rock Spring, GA.
In lieu of flowers the family suggest memorial donations be made to Boy Scout Troop 158, c/o The First Methodist Church, 208 W. Lauderdale St., Tullahoma, TN 37388,The Middle Tennessee Council, BSA, 3414 Hillsboro Pike, PO Box 150409, Nashville, TN 37215 or the Tennessee Valley Paso Fino Horse Assosiation, 2322 Floraton Rd., Readyville, TN 37149.
A Memorial service will be announced at a later date.
Tullahoma Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.