John William Ferries received the gift of life on August 10, 1923, and after 94 years, the gift of eternal life on February 21, 2018. John was known for his integrity, optimism, and love of family. He grew up on a dairy farm near Wilton, Wisconsin. His youth was spent working with dairy livestock and farming with draft horses; he relished his memory of farm work with his family. In 1939, he traveled with his FFA chapter to visit the construction of Mount Rushmore where he recalled climbing on the unfinished presidential sculptures; President Washington was his favorite. He enjoyed horses, dogs, and hunting. While growing up, he participated in all high school sports and excelled in boxing.
After high school graduation in 1941, he joined the U.S. Army, volunteering for Col. Darby’s Rangers. He participated in three major amphibious landings and several raids in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy in the Ranger’s First and Third Battalions and received field promotions to Staff Sergeant. John was proud that the Rangers were under the command of General George S. Patton, Jr. during the invasions of North Africa and Sicily. On January 31, 1943, during hand-to-hand combat as part of Operation Shingle of the Anzio Invasion at Salerno, Italy, John was severely wounded and taken prisoner by the German Army. He was saved from battlefield execution by the assistance of a fellow Ranger, Paul A. Grover, who helped him to stand and walk during the capture. He was crudely operated upon in a German field hospital and was later paraded through Rome as a Prisoner of War, where the Italian citizens threw refuse on him and the Ranger POWs. He endured frigid winter weather in West Prussia (Poland) working in various POW camps until liberated from the notorious Stalag II-B by the Soviet Red Army in May 1945. He received several military awards and medals, including the Purple Heart. John rarely talked of his military experience other than to say he toured Europe courtesy of Uncle Sam. He later enjoyed attending Ranger Battalion reunions.
After VJ Day, John returned home and in October 1945 married Audrey H. DeWitt, whom he had met in church during high school. After John completed mortuary science school, they owned and operated a funeral home, a furniture store, a small farm, and later were majority owners of the LaFarge State Bank in LaFarge, Wisconsin. In 1965, they moved to Sheridan, Wyoming where they owned and operated Ferries Funeral Home. That year he accompanied a National Geographic reporter on a horse pack trip to Lake Solitude in the Big Horn Mountains. Horses would be a lifelong connection in his life.
John enjoyed his family and relished the achievements of his children and grandchildren. He retired to ranch on Beaver Creek where he raised registered Angus cattle and worked with his Belgian draft horses. For many years, John and his good friend, Jim Stender, worked with the draft horses and old farm equipment.
John was Past Master of Sheridan Masonic Lodge No. 8, and was active in the Sheridan Kalif Shrine and the Shrine’s Buckskin Horse Patrol for several years. He helped his friend Don Tannehill charter the Powder River Navy with many entertaining excursions. He served as a County Commissioner for Vernon County, Wisconsin, fire chief for the LaFarge Fire Department, and several terms as the Sheridan County Coroner. John was a life-long member of the First United Methodist Church and the Republican Party. For the past several years, John had Alzheimer’s and was cared for by his loving wife.
John is survived by Audrey, his wife of 72 years, three children: Susan E. Berberick, David J. (Beth) Ferries, and James S. (Laura) Ferries, five grandchildren: Jennifer Ferries, William (Courtney) Ferris, Andrew (Alicia) Ferris, Margaret Ferries, and Evelyn Ferries, and three siblings: Jay Ferries (Sheridan), Jeremy Ferries (Oregon), and Margaret Meacham (Wisconsin), and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents (Vern and Beulah Ferries), his brother James H. Ferries, and a son Gregory John Ferries.
Visitation will begin at 9:30 am with funeral services to follow at 10:30 am on Monday, February 26, 2018 at First United Methodist Church with Pastor Jim Barth officiating and reception to follow at the church. After the reception, interment with military honors will take place at the Sheridan Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in memory of John to the Sheridan Senior Center Day Break. Online condolences may be written at www.championfh.com Arrangements are under the direction of Champion Funeral Home.
The family expresses its sincere appreciation to the staff of the Sheridan Senior Center Day Break and the Sheridan Veteran’s Administration Hospital Mountain View Living Center for their devoted care of John.
When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the River-side, into which as he went he said, Death, where is thy Sting? And as he went down deeper he said, Grave, where is thy Victory? So, he passed over, and all the Trumpets sounded for him on the other side.