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Leaving a Legacy

Overlooking beautiful Lake Ontario, The H. Lee White Marine Museum will always hold a significant importance to the Oswego community. This remarkable institution holds the historic footprints of many compelling individuals over time, now including those of Sophie Ferens.

Throughout life we all make connections. Some of these connections last just a few days and some live with us forever. Sometimes these relationships that we make are very formal, but sometimes they become very personal. We would all like to believe that the connections we make with people, places, things and organizations during our lifetime will carry on with us until the end of time. Every once in awhile, a special person comes along that makes sure that their legacy lives on.

Dan and Marice Ferens at the H. Lee White Marine Museum
Dan and Marice Ferens at the H. Lee White Marine Museum

Sophie Ferens did just that. Born in 1919, Sophie stepped out of the standards that had been set for her as a female. In a time when women were expected be domesticated, Sophie decided to stay in high school. She was able to do this by working as a housekeeper for a local resident in Oswego. After graduating from Oswego High School in 1937 she fell in love with Walter Ferens and they were married on May 1, 1943. Walter was a military man and, shortly after they were married, was assigned overseas and became a prisoner of war for 2 years. While he was away, she worked and took care of her aging father alone. Later, while Walter worked as an electrician, Sophie chose to continue to work outside of the home as well, which was very uncommon for females in the late 1940s. This is not to say Sophie wasn’t a great wife and mother on top working outside the home. “My mom held down the fort,” said Dan Ferens who is Sophie’s son.

One word that Dan used to describe his mother was “sociable.” Sophie spent her last ten years at Springside at Seneca Hill, which is a retirement living development in Oswego. “She was very well liked at Springside,” said Dan. Sophie dedicated a majority of her life volunteering and participating in different clubs. She was a member of Oswego and Scriba Seniors, Encouragers, Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 406, IBEW Retirees, Polish Legion of American Veterans Auxiliary, Rosary Society of St. Stephen’s Church and the Nineties Club at Springside. She volunteered with The American Cancer Society, The American Red Cross and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. Sophie was even involved with the Ex-Prisoners of War Organization, which was mainly comprised of men, including her husband Walter. “My mom was very supportive of my dad. She was the wind beneath his wings,” said Dan.

Sophie decided to leave behind a gift that will keep on giving as time goes on. The H. Lee White Marine Museum must have held a special place in Sophie’s heart because after her passing in October of 2010, the Museum received a $10,000 check which was a bequest from Sophie’s will.

Sophie first became involved with the museum through her son Dan and his wife, Marcie. Marcie was one of the first employees at the museum in 1995. After moving away for a few years, Dan and Marcie returned to Oswego and both became volunteers at the museum. Sophie grew an interest to the museum and quickly became a member. “She enjoyed visiting the museum. She liked to come down with her friends from Springside,” said Dan.

No one knew of Sophie’s plan to donate money to the museum through the Leave a Legacy program. “We are very grateful for her gift. The impact of such a gift on an organization can be quite important,” said Mercedes Niess who is the Executive Director of the Museum. The money that Sophie left will be used to build a new entrance to the museum, which will improve visitor traffic flow and the visual appearance of the building. A memorial will be placed in the new entrance in memory of Sophie.

Dan regularly volunteers at the Museum and helps coordinate the Museum’s popular History Lecture Series. In addition, one of Dan’s favorite tasks is to help keep the museum looking great for visitors so a small portion of the donated money has been used to purchase a new commercial vacuum, which Dan greatly appreciates.

Sophie also made planned gifts to the Oswego Public Library, St. Stephens Church and Springside, all organizations that Sophie held a personal connection with.

Sophie was 91 years old when she died last year but her legacy will live on forever.

For more information about including a charitable bequest in your will, contact your favorite charity, a legal financial adviser, or your local Leave a Legacy program at 315-343-1981 or www.oswegoleavealegacy.org.