HANSON — Business owner and decorated World War II Army Air Corps veteran John J. Ferry was saluted for “a life well-lived” during the dedication of a memorial square in his honor Sunday, Sept. 11.
Ferry operated a gas and service station at the corner of Liberty and Winter streets for 50 years before his death on Dec. 20, 2015. John J. Ferry Square is now located at that intersection, next to the business his family continues to operate.
“We honor a common man, a working man, a family man, a man of God, a good neighbor — John Ferry,” said keynote speaker, retired Army Brig. Gen. Emory Maddocks, noting that Ferry had enlisted in the Army in 1942, the same year Aaron Copeland composed “Fanfare for the Common Man.”
Maddocks said he was honored to speak, and happy the occasion was not memorializing a person killed in war at a young age, “But rather to honor a gentleman who lived a full life in service to his country,” he said. “We gather today to honor a life well-lived.”
Ferry’s son Jack thanked the crowd gathered for their tribute to his father.
“If dad was here I think he’d shake his head over the fuss everybody’s making,” Jack Ferry said, noting he was a bit nervous about speaking. “He’d say, ‘It’s just another day, what are you worried about,’”
Jack Ferry also said the family had calculated that his father had driven by the corner somewhere in the neighborhood of 105,000 times in the 50 years he worked at his station, and thanked all those who helped organize the event.
The 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was also on the minds of those in attendance.
“We pray for those who tragically lost their lives and for all those who continue to suffer the loss of their loved ones,” offered the Rev. Michael Hobson, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Church, where Ferry was a communicant. “Today, we are especially mindful of the blessings that you’ve bestowed upon us in our local community of Hanson as we remember John J. Ferry — a man who gave of himself in so many ways in service to country and community.”
Ferry’s friend Jerry Coulstring Jr. of Hanson American Legion Post 226 outlined that service, which included 79 combat missions as a gunner on a B-25 medium bomber in the China-Burma-India theater of operations.
Coulstring recalled Ferry telling him he had to “get over there” and do his duty when war came.
“He just didn’t realize how far ‘over there’ would be,” Coulstring said. “‘Over there’ took him across Europe over to Burma.”
The rotation policy was supposed to send crews home after 25 combat missions — Ferry’s 79 exceeded that by more than three times, averaging three to five hours each in duration.
“He’s always been a hero to me,” Coulstring said.
His efforts —more than 300 hours of combat action — earned Ferry the Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross.
“I was proud to call him a friend and hold him in the highest esteem as both a hero and a great patriot,” Coulstring said.
Maddocks, too, spoke of Ferry’s military record, enlisting at a time when the Allied victory was far from certain, and recounted the service Ferry dedicated to his community after opening his first service station.
“John provided old-fashioned, Norman Rockwell, small-town service in capital letters,” he said. “This was a family business and his customers were neighbors and friends.”
Friend in deed
When those neighbors and friends ran into tough times, Ferry helped out.
“He became part of the economic foundation of his country, his commonwealth and our town,” Maddocks said. “John employed people … he paid his taxes, he was active in the community and became part of the fabric of this little town. … John would fix cars, sometimes, for nothing.”
He did a lot of things to help people get to work on time when times were tough.
“He’d give people gas so they could get to work and support their families,” Maddocks said. “To John, there was nothing more noble than somebody who worked for a living and tried to raise their family.”
A dedicated member of St. Joseph the Worker Church, Ferry was known to “bump somebody on the back of the head with a basket” if he thought one of his friends hadn’t dropped enough into the collection, Maddocks said with a laugh.
State Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, presented Jack Ferry with a citation from the General Court, state Senate and Gov. Charles Baker. Selectmen Don Howard, James, McGahan, Bill Scott and Bruce Young also attended the ceremony, which was presided over by Veterans’ Agent Bob Arsenault.
Arsenault and Jack Ferry then unveiled the square marker. Wyman’s Nursery donated the mulch for the garden area.
Hanson resident and former firefighter Donald Teague played bagpipes prior to the ceremony and performed “Amazing Grace” following Hobson’s closing prayer. Singer Mary Renny performed “God Bless America” as a plane trailing a banner — reading “A true American Hero John J. Ferry” — circled overhead, before those attending were invited to a collation, catered by A Fork in the Road of Bryantville, in the Ferry’s Sunoco parking lot.
Representatives from the Hanson American Legion, the Fire, Police and Highway departments assisted with preparations for the ceremony, display of a giant American flag and traffic control.