Dr. W. Richard Ferguson, 92, orthopedic surgeon

November 12, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dr. W. Richard Ferguson, a surgeon who helped patients regain the use of their limbs during his five decades in orthopedic practice, died of respiratory failure Saturday at Franklin Square Hospital Center. The former Guilford resident was 92.

Born in Lake Geneva, Wis., he earned a degree in anatomy at the University of Wisconsin and his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He had his residency at Johns Hopkins in orthopedics and studied under Dr. George E. Bennett -- successor to Dr. William Baer, founder of the Hopkins department of orthopaedic Surgery.

In August 1940, Dr. Ferguson joined the Army and volunteered for surgical duty at the American Hospital in London, as the city was being bombed daily by German aircraft.

"The bombs were coming down day and night at the Dorchester Hotel, where he stayed," said his son, W. Richard Ferguson Jr. of Baltimore. "He watched people run in from the street and get crushed in the hotel's revolving doors. He had many narrow calls but he got a lot of experience in surgery. He treated scores and scores of patients, both military and civilian."

Later sent to the Mediterranean, Dr. Ferguson treated wounded servicemen in Italy and North Africa. He attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, was awarded the Bronze Star, and was elected to membership in the Excelsior Club, an honorary association of surgeons who served in the Mediterranean.

After the war, he began working with children who required long-term treatment for bone disorders while on a fellowship at the Alfred I. DuPont Institute in Wilmington, Del. He then returned to Baltimore and opened a practice on St. Paul Street with Dr. Raymond Lenhard in 1946.

"He was a delightful person who always had a host of good stories to tell. He was a good companion," said Dr. James M. Hitzrot, a retired surgeon from Ruxton. "He was also a mentor to young surgeons he would take under his wing and give of his time. He was also a quiet, philanthropic donor."

He was appointed assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Hopkins in 1948 and remained on the faculty for many years.

In 1950, he opened a private practice on West Belvedere Avenue and also had an office at Children's Hospital in Northwest Baltimore. He spent most of his career treating spinal deformities in children and adults, as well as conditions that affected hips, knees and feet. He retired in 1986.

Dr. Ferguson was a consultant to the Army at Fort Meade, the Crippled Children's Clinic in Montgomery County, and Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson, and wrote articles for the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

Colleagues said he was an expert in blood circulation in the spine and was a specialist in conditions that affect the back and lower extremities. He also did research in the early formation of the spine.

A consultant to the State Retirement Board, he also served on the state's Board of Social Services from 1963 to 1973.

In his free time, Dr. Ferguson gardened and enjoyed making furniture from cherry wood.

"He said that wood would not sue him and that it would never cry out in pain," his son said.

He was also active in the St. Andrew's Society of Maryland.

A member of the parish of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, he made a pilgrimage to Rome and was received by Pope Paul VI in 1966.

Dr. Ferguson had been a resident for several years of the Oak Crest Village retirement community, 8800 Walther Blvd. in Parkville, where a memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Friday in its chapel.

His wife of 57 years, the former Jean Hulin, died in 1998. Survivors, in addition to his son, include three daughters, Constance E. Ferguson of Baltimore, Cynthia F. Mernin of Bozeman, Mont., and Jean T. Dorsey of Washington.

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