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Newtown Centenarian Begins His 101st July



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Newtown Centenarian Begins His 101st July

By Nancy K. Crevier

When George Dewitt Wight Ferris was born July 2, 1912, to Fanny Ophelia and Charles Ferris, the youngest of seven children, he nearly did not live past day one. But thanks to the efforts of Bethel physician Dr Dewitt Wight, not only did that baby and his mother survive, that little boy celebrated his 100th birthday, Monday, July 2, 2012.

The last person to be born in the Ferris Farm homestead on Route 302, George D.W. Ferris grew up in Newtown, graduating as Salutatorian of the Hawley School Class of 1928. “I loved being in the plays at school,” recalled Mr Ferris, Friday, June 29, now a recent resident of Lockwood Lodge in Sandy Hook. “The older classes at the school, they would often ask me to help them out,” he said.

His son, George Ferris II, added that his father had an amazing memory that served him well in situations that called for a lot of memorizing or reciting. He also said that his father often spoke of how he earned money as a teenager in Newtown.

“Dad told us he used to drive flocks of a few hundred turkeys to market, walking all the way to Bridgeport. It took about two days, and I remember him telling us how the turkeys would roost overnight in the trees,” said George Ferris II. Mr Ferris nodded in agreement.

“Oh yes,” he said. “I did walk a ways with those turkeys.”

Science was always a love of his, said Mr Ferris, since he was a little kid. “I remember making mud pies when I was little,” he said, his first experiments. Following graduation from a junior college in Bridgeport, Trinity College in Hartford (the George Ferris Field House there is named for his cousin, though, he said, not him), and finally the Connecticut College of Pharmacy at Yale, he went from making mud pies to making compounds.

His first job was as a pharmacist for Smith Drug in Danbury, where the lovely Phebe Kellogg caught his eye at the soda fountain. It was a year later before the two got up the courage to talk to each other, in the aisle at the nearby A&P, and still later before he proposed.

The bulk of his career was spent compounding prescriptions behind the counter of the English Drug in Bethel, where he worked for 40 years, before retiring in 1984.

Pharmacy changed a great deal over the course of his career, he said. “We compounded our prescriptions, a common procedure in those days. Many doctors had their favorite drugstore that they sent their patients to for prescriptions [because they liked the way a particular pharmacist compounded the drugs],” he said.

It was his father’s uncanny ability to remember most of his patients’ allergies that made Mr Ferris a popular pharmacist for a lot of doctors, George Ferris II said.

After retiring, Mr Ferris continued his hobby of refurbishing antique furniture. “I did caning and rush seat repairs,” he said, briefly describing the difference between the two skills, as well as other repairs. Until earlier in 2012, he lived on his own, in a home he had built with the help of his father-in-law many years ago, in Danbury.

“He had beautiful gardens,” said his granddaughter, Elizabeth Ferris, visiting her grandfather on Friday. “He grew flowers, and he grew African violets,” she said. Ms Ferris also recalled that her grandfather had loved not only antique furniture, but antique clocks. “He had so many, and he would fix them. I remember he used to set them all at once and carry me around to listen to them go off,” Ms Ferris said. The oldest of his grandchildren, Ms Ferris said that she shares a special connection with her grandfather.

He loves all of his grandchildren, said Mr Ferris, but “she’s my little sweetheart, all right,” he agreed.

Having moved into Lockwood Lodge just two weeks ago, Mr Ferris is still finding his niche. Furniture and clock repair are beyond him now, but he may look into the discussion groups. “I like watching Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune,” Mr Ferris said.

He has always tried to treat people with respect and emphasized that he had never touched a drop of alcohol in his life, but really, said Mr Ferris, he is unsure if there is any one secret to longevity. Both of his brothers and his father all lived until past age 90, so good genes may be behind some of it, he said.

A quarter of a century ago, he told his family that he believed, “No matter how many times you get knocked down, you just get up.” That is still true, he said, 25 years later. “I never really thought about getting to be 100,” he said. “It just happened.”

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