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Jan. 8, 1928 – Dec. 27, 2012

Described as an inspiration and role model to many, Irene C. Fergus was able to keep her sense of humor right up to the very end when she died Thursday in her Town of Tonawanda home after battling Parkinson’s disease for decades. She was 84.

The former Irene Corrigan re-entered the work world in 1982 after raising three children, finding employment in the Admissions Office at Daemen College.

Her pleasant personality, command of the English language and organizational skills soon landed her in the role of executive assistant to the college president.

For 20 years, Mrs. Fergus, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, worked at the college before illness forced her to retire.

“Mom was generous, kind and never selfish, always putting the needs of others before her own. She had a zest for life, an ability to see humor in any situation and a sparkle in her eyes that even a debilitating disease like Parkinson’s couldn’t mask. She was cracking jokes to the end,” said Carol J. Fergus, her youngest daughter, who considered her mom her best friend.

Mrs. Fergus’ passion for correct grammar and the written word started early in life. She was a staff member of the East Side High School student newspaper in Youngstown.

Realizing that a costly college education was not in the cards for her, Mrs. Fergus pursued a course of study in secretarial skills while in high school.

Upon completion, she let her sense of adventure take her from Middle America to New York City, where she worked in the main library in Manhattan, typing index cards for the card catalog.

Big city life, she discovered, could not replace the family she had left behind.

Back home while working at a drugstore, she met a customer who would become her husband of 62 years, Bernard E. Fergus, then a young World War II Army Air Forces soldier home on leave.

Like his wife to be, Fergus shared a love of the English language and would find work at the Buffalo Courier-Express as an editor. He worked for three decades before the paper closed.

Mrs. Fergus’ children had been planning a special surprise for her this past weekend, a belated Christmas family gathering, the first time all three children would be home at the same time for the holiday in decades.

Christmas stockings from childhood had been dug out, and gifts were to be exchanged.

“As I often say, if you want to make God laugh, make plans,” said her other daughter, Patricia F. Mianowany.

In addition to her husband and daughters, Mrs. Fergus is survived by a son, Michael.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the Shrine of St. John Neumann Chapel, at St. John the Baptist Parish, Belmont and Englewood avenues, Town of Tonawanda.

– Lou Michel