Dorothy Ferguson

Honored by:Joseph Hineman
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Dorothy Jean Ferguson was born January 2, 1941 at Marshalltown, Iowa the third child of Minnie Emma Charlotte Ellerbrock Ferguson and Harry Alford Ferguson. Dorothy joined her brother Richard and sister Ruth on the eighty acre family farm near Laurel. Dorothy's mother was a second generation German woman whose parents had immigrated to Marshall County from Duesseldorf at the turn of the century.

Her mother was thrifty, resourceful and the keeper of a very strong work ethic. Her father was one of seven brothers who had grown up near Ferguson, Iowa. He was earthy artistic and gentle spirited and he farmed. The creativity of both parents was visible almost daily. The industrious mother made clothes for the children on her tredle sewing machine filled the basement shelves in autumn with produce from the garden and centered the Sunday dinner table with artistically arranged fresh flowers in summer. The father crafted beautiful toys and household pieces on the wood lathe in his shop could take apart and reassemble the engines of the farm vehicles and on summer nights under the stars amazed the three children snuggled near him on the lawn with his tales about space travel - in the 1940's!

All three children remember a congenial and loving parental relationship. Dorothy's early years were peaceful and gentle filled with childhood play pets and farm animals and music. Her mother played piano her father many musical instruments and both of them sang. It was common for the family to gather around the upright piano after chores and supper were finished and sing as their father played the violin. Life on that farm was quiet and simple and the children learned early to respect all life the rich and to care for fertile land.

The tranquillity ended in 1947 during Dorothy's kindergarten year. On a January afternoon propped on pillows in a brass bed her father died from a malignant brain tumor. In the months and then the years to follow her mother drew from the wealth of resources within to manage as an independent woman the responsibilities of farm home and parenting. Dorothy attended Laurel Consolidated School. The subjects she most diligently embraced from the early years until graduating in 1959 included music art writing social studies drama and history. She was also a member of both boys and girls 4-H Clubs.

She became Dorothy Nuese in 1959 and for the next seventeen years invested herself in mothering homemaking volunteering in the schools and working in the churches in Laurel. Her children are: Mary, Joy, Lanny, Dean, Ted, Paul, Jennifer, Margaret, and Sarah Ann. In 1978 she owned a flower shop The House of Vine and Branches in her home. Two years later she closed that business and went to work outside the home for the first time as a nursing assistant at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.

Her work on the psycho-social unit of that institution awakened her interest in the field of human behavior. The next year she enrolled at Marshalltown Community College beginning a new growth period that would bring about significant changes in her. The personal and professional satisfaction evolving from the combination of studies and related experience in the workplace helped her glimpse and then grasp a new sense of self. Her commitment to learning was rewarded when her name was placed on the dean's list for academic achievement. She graduated in 1982 with an Associate in Arts degree.

In 1984 her twenty-five year marriage came to closure. The big gold house whose walls she had papered whose rose gardens she had tended and through whose doors she had carried each of her five babies was sold. She "left home" for the first time moving with her two youngest daughters to Ames. The distance was forty-five miles and yet it was light years away from the rural community of her forty-four years. The students in her daughters' high school classes outnumbered the entire population of her home town. She had never ridden on a city bus or lived in an apartment.

After a year she left her job enrolled at Iowa State University moved into a low rent housing complex and gave herself to her studies supported by funds from ADC. She stood in line to receive government commodities and bought the rest of her groceries with Food Stamps. And she made the dean's list again reaching a 3.89 GPA. She was inducted into Omicron Nu a national home economics sorority and Phi Kappa Phi a national honor society.

Advisors, professors and fellow students and the nurturing environment at Iowa State University provided the seedbed for another season of growth. Her life experiences - the losses and the successes - bonded with her academic processes in refining the vision for her future. She was awarded a bachelors degree in 1987 from the Department of Family Environment, College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The day after graduation, she began work as a family service coordinator at Hamiltons Funeral Home in Des Moines, where she developed programs and counseled grieving families. Two years later, she established her own business, Dorothy Ferguson Presents, a company providing therapy and education in loss and gried. She has authored three books: Saturday Night Mulberries, a gentle story of her father's death when she was six; Little Footprints, a book of guided journaling and poetry for parents whose babies have died; A Bunch of Balloons, lessons on "letting go" for grieving children.

Dorothy Ferguson's profound ability to communicate, touch and move people at the feeling level became apparent to the President of the United States in 1981, when her letter to him caught his attention and received national recognition. The series of letters exchanged with President Reagen culminated in an invitation to meet with him in the Oval Office at the White House in September 1988.

In 1994, Dorothy was invited to bring her private practice to Central Iowa Psychological Services in West Des Moines as a grief therapist. In that capacity she focuses on losses from all life-changing events, specializing in the following: issues of grief from all kinds of loss in adults, group work with children who are grieving death and divorce; infant death; spirituality; suicide grief; women's studies, including loss issues surrounding women who were sexually abused as children, and incarcerated women.

She maintains Dorothy Ferguson Presents, creating, marketing and presenting workshops and seminars across the state. She is consultant to schools, hospitals, churches and corporations, and contracts services to Amanda Cares, Inc. in Des Moines. dorothy continues to write, with manuscripts for three full-length books currently in preparation for her agent in New York city.

As of this writing, June 1995, Dorothy shares her life in Des Moines with Dr. Joseph Hineman- her dearest friend, confident and colleague; the man who believed in her when she couldn't, saw her potential when she didn't. Her grown children have become responsible, productive, loving adults with meanful lives that make a positive difference in each of their communities. she rejoices in her six beautiful grandchildren and sees in them infinite promise and hope for the future.

Highly regarded as a therapist, writer and presenter, the work of Dorothy Ferguson is marked by a rare combination of sensitivity, spirituality, authenticity, humor and affirmation. Focused on the eternal preciousness of personhood, and an excellent communicator to all audiences, she brings to her profession lifetime learnings that have their roots deep in Iowa soil. From its gentle beginning on a farm in central Iowa, her journey has brought her to a place of integrity from which she speaks to the wounds of a hurting world.