The Greatest Wealth is Health – Virgil
Dorothy Mae Ferguson was born to Thomas C. Ferguson and Lola (Pope) Ferguson on 2 May 1908 in Sedalia, Missouri. Shortly after her birth, her parents moved to Webster Groves, Missouri.
When Dorothy came of age in the mid-1920s, during the era of the Flapper, young women eschewed the Victorian dress and cut their long hair in favor of the chin-length bob.² While this picture of Dorothy is not very good, you can see she embraced the look.
Dorothy graduated from Webster Groves High School in 1924 at the age of sixteen. She enrolled in Harris Stowe State University in the city of St. Louis. Through her four years of college, Dorothy was an active girl. She belonged to the Athletic Association, the Dancing Club, and the French Club. Dorothy also played basketball and volleyball. She was associate editor of the Torch, the school’s yearbook.³ Dorothy had dreams.
But things went terribly wrong. We don’t’ know the particulars or when it happened, but Dorothy was involved in a terrible accident. Her injuries led to a body cast that probably went from her neck to her knees. During this time, arthritis took hold of her body. There are two types of arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis, while not as prevalent, is recognized as the most debilitating. Dorothy had Rheumatoid Arthritis.
For a while, the family moved to Arizona in hopes that the warmer climate would help Dorothy. The climate in Arizona didn’t help as the family eventually moved back to Webster Groves. You can see in this picture, probably taken in the 1930s, that Dorothy had a cane and was slightly stooped.
Throughout the years, her arthritis worsened. I met Aunt Dorothy in 1968 when she was sixty years old. She suffered from migraine headaches and was bent sideways. It was painful to watch her walk or sit in a chair. But not as painful as the pain she felt every single day. And still, she never complained.
Her dreams had vanished. There was no love of her life or children. If she had aspirations to teach or become a writer, they were gone. Fortunately, she had two loving parents who took care of her as her disease progressed. Sometime after her father died, she and Grandma Ferguson moved into an apartment. Both went to family functions. No matter how rough it was for Aunt Dorothy to go up a flight of stairs, she soldiered on.
Eventually, when living on their own became too great, Grandma and Aunt Dorothy voluntarily moved into a nursing home. Grandma Ferguson passed away in 1983, two months short of her one-hundredth birthday. I am convinced she lived that long so that she could help take care of Dorothy. Dorothy passed away on 22 Feb 1983.
I didn’t realize how negatively poor health impacts a person’s life until I met Aunt Dorothy. Despite it all, she was an inspiration and truly a remarkable woman.
³Torch. St. Louis, Missouri: Harris Stowe State University, 1927. Privately held by David Ferguson, Webster Groves, Missouri. 1995.