Between his drunken scooter jaunts and women-charming ways, George Ferguson was a troublemaker whose reputation preceded him in Victoria’s Oak Bay community.
But the 77-year-old, who died June 29, likely never expected that notoriety to go worldwide after a tongue-in-cheek obituary detailing his colourful exploits became an online sensation this week.
“What to say about George?” the obituary reads. “Certainly, no one could accuse him of having been a loving son, brother, or father. He’d gladly have stolen the shirt off your back and he was generous to a fault with other people’s money.”
Ferguson’s eldest daughter Karen Shirley, who penned the piece, said she didn’t always have a positive relationship with her father, whose hijinks often left her feeling embarrassed to be related to him.
Still, she said she wanted to inject humour into his final send-off so she would have at least one good story about her father.
“There were so many people who were hurt by him that I couldn’t write an obituary that was just nice,” she told Metro. “I just wanted it all to be less ugly.”
And after hearing about some of her father’s escapades, many of which she considered “very funny,” Shirley said it only made sense to document it with a sense of humour.
“Was he a small-time con-man with grandiose schemes? Probably,” she wrote in the obituary. “But another view of him is that he was the most exciting member of his family and of the families he married into.”
Shirley said her father donned many hats in his life.
For many years, he was a United Church minister although “it is impossible to say whether or not George was actually religious,” she wrote in the obituary.
In the 1970s, Ferguson was also an early owner of The Blethering Place, a popular Oak Bay tearoom and restaurant.
Local Ken Agate, who later also owned The Blethering Place, said he had known Ferguson for about 30 years but he never considered him a friend.
Agate said Ferguson often insulted his scones, even though the tearoom was famous for his recipe.
“I humoured him as I think many people did,” Agate said with a laugh. “But he wasn’t somebody that I liked. I found him very interesting, but he wasn’t what I would say likable.”
Ferguson was a troublemaker almost everywhere he went, he said, recalling a verbal argument more than a decade ago at The Penny Farthing Pub that saw him barred for life from the local watering hole.
When he wasn’t getting drunk and recklessly driving his scooter through Oak Bay’s streets, Shirley said her father, who had three wives in his life, was a constant Casanova who was always looking to “charm another woman into supporting him.”
Shirley recalled her dad’s final exploit when he received a new scooter that had been donated by a local charity, only to promptly sell it for profit so he could buy a better one.
“I mean, that’s not polite,” she said with a chuckle.
Despite his reputation in the community, Shirley said her dad did become a less hurtful man in the final years of his life, describing how kind he was to his caregivers.
By the time he was admitted to hospital for a gastric bleed, Shirley said her dad had decided he was ready to “check out” of life and refused treatment. That day, he phoned several relatives to say goodbye.
“He had an excellent death,” she said, describing how she drank his favourite beer with him on his death bed while they toasted his life together.
Even in death, however, Ferguson still managed to get up to his usual troublemaking, she detailed in the obituary. The timing of his death was “impeccable,” she wrote.
“The next day we found out that he had been racking up ominous bank and credit card debts,” the obituary read.
While she doesn’t appreciate being stuck with mopping up the financial mess her dad left behind, Shirley said she’s certain Ferguson is revelling in the reaction his obituary is getting.
“He loved to get attention,” she said with a laugh.