Cheryl Ferguson never knew what her job at The Presbyterian Church might entail.

One day, the church got a phone call. The Rev. David Hansen — then the associate pastor — had run out of gas for his vehicle.

Ferguson came to the rescue — after going home to retrieve a gas can, then getting the fuel and taking it to the minister.

Throughout the years, Ferguson’s multi-faceted job would include report preparation, newsletter production, bulletin typing and printing and record keeping. She’s handled the church finances and sent out stewardship letters and committee meeting reminders.

Her name was on a list at the police station, so if a security alarm was tripped at the church, she’d get the call, in the middle of the night, to check it out.

One day, she chased a bat in the church until a trained professional could be called to remove it.

Staffers would come to know her as the go-to person if they had questions. And although her last title was office manager, Ferguson good-humoredly dubbed herself as vice president of “Make It Happen.”

Now, after more than 35 years of serving the church, Ferguson has retired so she and her husband, John, can spend more time traveling and enjoying their grandchildren.

A retirement celebration is planned for Ferguson after the 10:30 a.m. worship service on Feb. 24 at the church. The public is invited.

Looking back, Ferguson recalls how her work with the church began. She grew up in Fremont, where her parents, Alvin and Ann Burns, had H Street Grocery, a mom-and-pop grocery store.

Ferguson graduated from Fremont High School in 1973. She and John married in 1974 in The Presbyterian Church with the Rev. John Swearingin officiating.

The Fergusons would have two children, Jeff and Carrie, and Cheryl was a stay-at-home mom.

Then one day in August 1983, she got a phone call.

Shirley Small, then the church secretary, wanted to take a two-week vacation with her husband, Floyd.

Small had lined up someone to fill in for her, but that woman had to back out because a family member was having health problems. So Small looked in the church directory to see if she might call someone else.

She saw the Fergusons’ photo and called Cheryl, who agreed to give it a try.

“I worked those two weeks and things went well and they found chores for me to do,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson answered the phone and talked to people who came asking for food, fuel or funds. She typed letters and stuffed envelopes. She used an addressograph machine to stamp church members’ addresses onto the newsletters they’d get in the mail.

She worked with a mimeograph machine to print off bulletins. That included using a caulking gun to put ink into the machine.

“You didn’t wear good clothes to work on Fridays,” she said because that’s when bulletins were printed and she’d probably end up with ink on her clothing.

Ferguson would begin getting agendas and reports ready for committee and session meetings.

She saw technology evolve with desktop computers in the 1990s and programs that allowed office staff to record memberships, contributions and church finances.

“We were still physically writing checks,” she said.

But information had to be entered in the computer so financial reports could be printed for committees. Eventually, that evolved into web-based programs. Ferguson would see communication go from paper mailings to Facebook postings, emails and texting.

Ferguson also would work a lot with Wednesday night programming, keeping track of attendance and scheduling.

She and John became youth group volunteers. Twice, they served as directors, coordinating the program.

They were senior high sponsors for several years and went on several trips as adult sponsors.

The mission trips included: fixing up a church in Rico, Colorado; helping paint houses and do other odd jobs for elderly people in Springfield, Mo.; and working with Habitat for Humanity in Ashland, Ky., Sister Bay, Wis., Montgomery, Ala., and Benton Harbor, Mich.

Cheryl Ferguson said they were involved in mission trips as adult sponsors from 1992 to 2000.

Throughout the years, the best part about her job would involve working with people in the congregation and the church staffers, who were very supportive.

And she’s especially appreciated that support during a series of health issues.

In 2005, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and radiation.

She had her first colonoscopy in February 2011, when doctors found a Stage 2 tumor. She had radiation and chemotherapy at the same time. She wore a device via which the chemotherapy was fed constantly into her system.

The chemo and radiation did the job and when doctors went to remove the tumor, they found it was gone. They removed tissue that surrounded the area where the tumor had been and did a resection surgery.

And she was cancer free.

During another colonoscopy, doctors discovered a polyp. She’d have another resection surgery in December 2012. Doctors also removed her appendix and she had a hernia procedure as well.

Through it all, she missed little work.

“Work was a good diversion to keep my mind off of what else was going on,” she said.

She again would be in the hospital for 16 days in 2018 for an abscess probably from the first resection procedure. During that time in 2018, she would have five procedures in 13 days.

“Last year was pretty awful,” she said.

She’s now better, healthwise, than she has been in years.

But health problems in the recent year prompted her to retire. John had retired in July 2018 after 45 years at Valmont Industries, where most of the time he was an overhead crane operator.

She gave her retirement notice in January, saying she’d get the church through annual reports, income tax and January paychecks.

Ferguson retired on Feb. 1.

Staffers will miss Ferguson. Paul Valla, who leads modern worship at the church wrote Facebook comments, which in part, include:

“We’re so excited for you, Cheryl! Honestly, we feel like Google is retiring! You were ‘the church go-to’ for any and every question, and we could always count on you for help. You are an absolute inspiration of what it means to remain steadfast in your faith in good times and hard times.”

The Rev. Jon Ashley, pastor, added this: 

"Cheryl served our church family faithfully for 35 years — what a gift!" he said. "We have all been blessed by her dedication, her caring heart, and her hard work. She is trustworthy and reliable – and she loves God and our church family. She’s often been the glue that holds things together, and the motor that keeps things moving. I am excited with her and John for this next chapter in their lives, and pray with confidence that they will enjoy the journey together. As I told Cheryl on her last day in the office, 'Thank you. See you on Sunday!'"

Years after she got that August phone call, Ferguson notes she never thought she’d be working at the church that long.

But she has good memories that include staff Christmas parties and birthday parties for staffers.

What’s one of the best parts of retiring?

“I get to sleep in every day,” she said. “I love that.”


News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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