Lieutenant Eric Ferguson just recently saluted his mother Fay Holmes Ferguson as a female trailblazer during a March Women’s History Month event in Japan.
He spoke with pride of his mother, who is CEO of Burrell Communications in Chicago, and about Allies of Innocence, a non-profit initiative founded by her. The initiative serves as a community resource, providing no-cost grief and trauma counseling to survivors of Chicago’s gun violence.
Eric’s father, Ernest Ferguson, is the CFO of Primero-Cuarenta Group, a sustainable pineapple producer in Panama. Previously he was a financial consultant at KPMG, a Big Four auditing company. He worked with Fortune 100 companies in the U.S. and internationally.
For the decorated Navy veteran, Eric’s Women’s History Month tribute to his mother would turn out to be one of his last public acts.
Lieutenant Eric Wesley Ferguson died of natural causes on March 30, 2017 while serving in the United States Navy in Yokosuka, Japan.
On Tuesday, April 18, Lieutenant Ferguson’s body was returned to his country and his family by the United States Navy during a moving plane-side ceremony at O’Hare Airport. The Navy Honor Guard performed its traditional service for a fallen serviceman. The family received comfort and support from the multitude of service men and women who came to show respect for their comrade.
Sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago attended, as did policemen, firemen and a security detail.
In a symbolic water tribute, fire hoses sprayed the entire United Airlines plane that had carried Ferguson’s body; it was the equivalent of a 21-gun salute. Ferguson’s coffin was then lowered to the ground as every branch of military present acknowledged their fellow veteran with a salute until he was carried to the waiting hearse.
Among the military members present was Ferguson’s Commanding Officer, Nolasco Villanueva, who flew in from Japan. Following a visit with the family, he returned to Yokosuka, Japan to prepare for Ferguson’s memorial services, which will take place on base in Japan on Friday, April 28.
Eric Wesley Ferguson was a decorated Navy veteran who was dedicated to giving back, and who had a passion for flying.
He was born in Chicago on June 2, 1985 to Fay Holmes Ferguson and Ernest Ferguson.
He attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools for elementary and junior high school. While a student there he served as the head representative of the Black Students’ Association, whose goal was to raise scholarship money.
After transferring to Francis W. Parker for high school, Eric graduated in June 2003. He was one of 10 students chosen to represent the school at the National Association of Independent Schools Conference on Race and Gender, and was a representative at the University of Illinois Early Outreach Program for Minority Students. He helped tutor lower grades and middle school students in reading and writing, something that he found to be deeply fulfilling.
A lover of airplanes since childhood, Eric 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.
Eric 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. Eric graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Science and received his private pilot’s license.
After Embry Riddle, Eric attended Gulf Stream Training Academy where his dream of flying came true. As a pilot for Continental Connection, Eric flew throughout Florida, the Bahamas and Cuba. Eric realized he wanted to serve our country after 9/11 and was soon accepted into the naval 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, Eric will be missed by his mother and father, Fay Holmes Ferguson and Ernie Ferguson of Chicago, IL; 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.
The Ferguson family has a single message to the community: they want Eric remembered as a young Black man who served his country, and his fellow man, throughout his life.
In lieu of flowers and in remembrance of Eric, the family requests donations to the Allies of Innocence, the non-profit initiative founded by his mother.