Lorene’s long life bridged an expanse of events in history that some thought unimaginable and impossible. Lorene Ferguson was always a quiet person - never one to seek the spotlight or center stage. But, in her quiet way, she worked devotedly and tirelessly for the betterment and happiness of her family - always with grace, class, gentle humor and unending generosity and kindness. She made a difference. Lorene was born May 6, 1922 on a small farm in Fort Osage Township, Jackson County, MO. Land settled and built on by her grandparents, John and Alice Ferguson, in 1891. She was the second child and only daughter of Fred and Mary (Ryan) Ferguson. Two of her three brothers, Freddie and Keith, would die in childhood, at ages two and six, but she would hold a close-knit bond throughout life with her younger brother, John Thomas (Bud), and with his family. By choice, Lorene and Bud would live out their long lives on the land of their birth along the original Independence-Lexington Road, close by the Little Blue River. This, their birth land, was soil once soaked with blood when Union and Confederate cavalries clashed on October 21, 1864, the first day of the running Battle of Westport, a fleeting moment in the history books, just 27 years before her grandparents arrived there. But the land is notable also for a long-lived landmark - a natural spring, now called Ferguson Spring, just north, an eighth mile or so down the lane from the original home place. Over centuries, the cool waters slaked the thirst of Indians, trappers, traders, and finally settlers traversing the area. History notes that the spring, along with its bluff above, was used by the Civil War soldiers of the time. The Ferguson farm, like most others of its time, would not be electrified until the 1940s. No power for lights, pumps or machinery. As a child Lorene would walk with her
mother to the spring to bring water to the house. Her mother would often have a baby on one hip and a bucket in the other hand. Sometimes Lorene would carry a baby brother. At her mother’s side, Lorene learned to cook on the kerosene stove, garden, tend the chickens and animals, and help at the dairy at the barn North of the Homeplace house. Hands were never idle on a farm. As a young girl, she made her own clothes on a treadle sewing machine and, over the years, developed a good eye for fashion. She liked to be well-dressed. But she took time for play too - card games, rolling barrel hoops, and shooting marbles. Lorene, her parents and brothers lived in the 1891 house until she was 11 years old. Then her parents purchased more land with another house, just south and around the hill from the Homeplace. It would be her home for the next eight decades. Lorene attended a one-room county district school - Woodland Elementary - through all eight grades. She and brother Bud walked over three miles each way to and from school. She was a good student, but it is known that, on one occasion, Lorene skipped classes to go to the general store in Ripley to buy candy. The now-vanished little railroad town was almost directly west on the Little Blue. After her purchase, as she was sauntering back, she ran into her father. She walked straight past him, keeping her eyes down, and, with good judgment, headed directly to school. Her high school years were spent at the original William Chrisman High School at Union and Maple in Independence, a few blocks west of the Square. During her junior and senior years, while our country was still officially neutral, newsreels showed endless pictures of Germans marching into Poland, merchant marine ships being torpedoed, troops evacuated at Dunkirk, and London in flames, enduring the devastation of the Blitz, the bombing campaign of the German Luftwaffe. After graduation in May 1941, Lorene went to work immediately at the newly-opened Lake City Arsenal. During WWII, Lake City had over 20,500 workers on line in a single day. Lorene was one of them, assembling bullets, shift work. She was a “Rosie.” Lake City was where she met the one true love of her life - a co-worker, Charles F. Railing from Wichita. They fell in love and became engaged. C.F. was due to be drafted, and before his “number” came up, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He had learned to fly in Wichita, and, as he had hoped, he earned his pilot’s wings. He was given command of a B-17, Boeing’s four-engine “Flying Fortress.” As pilot, he was top officer of a crew of ten. He shipped out to England as part of the Eighth Air Force. Their B-17s were assigned to fly daylight raids far into Europe over Germany to drop their two and a half tons of “payload” on military and industrial targets in preparation for the invasion of France. On one of these dangerous missions, C.F.’s plane was shot down. He and his crew were lost over Germany, and their bodies never recovered. Lorene received and kept her whole life letters both from hero General Jimmy Doolittle, and from Army Headquarters praising C.F.’s bravery and action. He was one of 400,000 Americans to die in military service in WWII. Lorene stayed close to C.F.’s parents for all of their lives. She never married or loved another. Heeding C.F.’s advice to leave Lake City and pursue another career, Lorene enrolled in the Central Business College in downtown Kansas City at war’s end. She was the first of her family to go to college. It was not an easy journey. She walked almost a mile in the dark each morning to 24 Highway and Ferguson Spring Road to board the Missouri Pacific bus to get into town. After a long school day, and a bus ride back, she would again be on the road walking in the dark to return home. But Lorene persevered and graduated. She became a comptometer operator. The comptometer was a precursor of the computer, a popular key-driven mechanical calculator, a machine that could add, subtract, multiply, and divide. After graduation, she began a long career at Sears, Roebuck, and Company, at 15th and Cleveland in Kansas City. This was a large facility, a regional center for the company. Lorene worked as an auditor of accounts, using her comptometer skills. In those years, many rural towns had a Sears’ branch store, offering some merchandise, and featuring a catalog order desk. Lorene kept accounts straight and accurate for these small town stores across the Midwest. She would drive in from the farm to work and back each day - a 44 mile, hour and a half round trip. Rain, snow, sleet, or hail, Lorene was at work. She worked at Sears for 39 ½ years, retiring in 1986. Lorene probably would have extended her career, but she retired to care for her aging mother. After Mary Ferguson died four years later in 1990, Lorene lived alone in the house that she had called home since she was 11. Throughout her life, Lorene appreciated her roots, her family, the land that surrounded her, and its creatures large and small. She was a keeper of the family pictures and stories. And she made her home a gathering place. Lorene was a wonderful cook and baker. On occasions, too numerous to count, she set a fine table for her family and friends. She could cut up a chicken in a flash to “fry up” for Sunday dinner. The deviled eggs and homemade pickles and mashed potatoes would be set out, and the meal might be topped off with strawberry-rhubarb pie before the “visiting.” As an aunt, she was without equal. She knew just how to entertain Steve when he was young and later his children - playing games, cooking, watching movies, laughing and with many times including an overnight stay so the spoiling could continue. Lorene always had a connection to her land. Her brother once said, “I know every inch of this farm.” So did Lorene. She loved to walk and see the seasons change and the crops grow and be harvested, and the new-born calves on the hillside. She took long walks all her life until she could not walk anymore. At home or on her walks, her pet dogs were always at her side. They were her treasured companions, and she treated them as such. She also liked caring for the horses on the farm, offering treats of sugar cubes, carrots, and extra heads of lettuce. But Lorene had wings as well. She was well-read and curious. She knew history. She liked to travel, near and far. In town, she often took day trips to sightsee with Steve, Julie, Dawn, and Scott to the zoo or to a museum. She spent many New Year’s Eve nights with them when Bud and June were out with friends. And out of town, over the years, she crisscrossed the country - from Florida to California, from the Great Lakes to the Old South. A stop at Elvis’ home in Memphis was a highlight. Most of these were driving trips, but she did fly on occasion and she and her Mom were the first of the family to fly on the then prop planes. By far her favorite destinations were Colorado Springs and Branson. She visited there time and again. Lorene’s earthly life is finished now. Hers was a long life, a Christian life, generous and enriched by love. She made a large contribution to the lives of many. She was a worthy, outstanding woman in every sense of the word. Lorene will always be remembered.