Abbotsford – On the heels of the death of legendary Fraser Valley Broadcaster Grant Ullyot, comes word that we lost another larger than life character.
Former Abbotsford Mayor George Ferguson died Tuesday night at the age of 91. A family spokesperson said he died peacefully in his sleep.
To say he was a formidable political force and a bit of a rascal, would be an understatement. He was a World War II vet, and that may have played a role in his sometimes fiery demeanor.
But Ferguson was a Mayor who got things done, even if he had to push a few people’s buttons to get things accomplished. Some of his foes have been critical that it was Ferguson who, instead of building a “proper” downtown Abbotsford, allowed the strip malls that grace South Fraser Way.
Ferguson may not have been loved by all, but he was respected.
A brief history:
In 1969 Ferguson was elected as an alderman, where he served three years before being elected District Mayor in 1972.
In 1995, Abbotsford amalgamated with Matsqui to become the City of Abbotsford , and he retained his position as Mayor.Ferguson pushed hard for amalgamation of Abbotsford, Matsqui and Clearbrook.
In 2002, his tenure was over as he was defeated by Mary Reeves.
In 2005, Ferguson was re-elected as Mayor and eventually retired in December 2008.
That made for almost four decades of public service.
Ferguson also served as the President of the FCM – Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the President of UBCM – the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
He received the Order of Abbotsford in June 2011.
In 2013 he joined forces with former Chilliwack Mayor and MLA John Les and former Mayor Chilliwack Mayor Clint Hames to openly criticize the Province of BC for more funding for Fraser Valley Flood Protection. The former Mayors turned a few heads with their “summit” at Jimmy J’s restaurant in Chilliwack when they made their collective statement.
This was on the heels of the Calgary Bow River floods which literally drowned that city’s downtown core.
Even in “retirement”, Ferguson was still a force.
Ferguson played a major role in what would be become the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre.
Abbotsford Councilor Patrica Ross commented on Twitter, “Heartbroken to lose my mentor and friend, former Mayor George Ferguson”. It was well known that Ross considered Ferguson a father figure/mentor.
Former Chilliwack Mayor and MLA John Les: “A long-time community stalwart has passed. No one surpassed George Ferguson in terms of length of service, commitment to community and compassion for the people he served. George was a true friend and mentor to me. We sat at hundreds of meetings together over the years, and he preceded me as President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He leaves a deep and lasting in Abbotsford, and well beyond. I’m deeply saddened by Georges’ passing and extend my condolences to Ria and his large family. George will be missed”.
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz watched Ferguson very closely and learned a lot on how to be a Mayor and sadden to hear about his passing. “My love to his family. I was truly saddened to hear of the passing of former Mayor George Ferguson. I had the honour of working with George on many projects in our tenure on the Fraser Valley Regional District. George was always known for his love for his family, his community and his farm. I have known many great politicians, but George’s long term service to his community, our province and indeed our country, made him legendary. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Rest in peace George Ferguson.”
A funeral is planned for March 18, 11 AM at Tradex Abbotsford.