Obituary: Hayden Ferguson

Posted at 10:45 AM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-17 12:45:31-04

Hayden Ferguson passed away peacefully in his sleep October 8, 2019 at home with his beloved wife, Marlene, by his side.

He is survived by his wife, Marlene; daughter, Stacy; and son-in-law, Dave Cattrell. He was preceded in death by his parents; brother; son, Link; and son-in-law, Doug Lanphear.

He was born Albert Hayden Ferguson on September 12, 1928 to William Hayden and Harriet Irene (Ewan) Ferguson, up Elk Creek south of Big Timber. His mother taught him to read before he started the first grade. The area schoolchildren spoke only Norwegian, so Hayden spent his first two years on his own in the classroom reading The Book of Knowledge. This sparked a love of learning which continued all his life.

The family, which now included his younger brother, Floyd, moved to Harrison when Hayden was in the 5th grade. He attended school there and worked on local ranches from the age of 12 in order to help make ends meet. He played basketball for Harrison High.

Hayden attended Montana State College and as a freshman was advised by his professor to give up school and go back to the farm. That was incentive enough to study in the newly formed soils department along with four others.

He met Marlene Anderson in college and after his graduation they were married December 28, 1950 in Great Falls. They moved to Miles City where Hayden worked as a soil scientist for the Bureau of Reclamation. He was drafted into the Army on February 14, 1951, and the newly married couple from rural Montana moved to Edgewood, Maryland where Hayden was a scientist for the US Army Atomic Energy Commission. After his honorable discharge, he continued his love of learning and received his Master’s Degree and his Doctorate of Soil Physics from Washington State University.

Their daughter, Stacy, was born while they lived in Pullman, Washington. Later, when they returned to Bozeman, the family adopted their son, Link, in 1964.

Hayden felt obligated to make the world a better place, and so he did.

He traveled internationally, working in Brazil, the USSR, and the Middle East in order to recommend improvements in agriculture production, so the world could be fed. But, his pioneering research on the correction of saline seep on the highline of Montana was perhaps his most satisfying professional work.

He was awarded a Fellowship in the American Society of Agronomy and in the Soil Science Society of America, in addition to belonging to many professional and honor societies. He was selected by students as Outstanding Educator in Agriculture at MSU, and many of those students remained in contact with him. Hayden was well respected in the academic world as well as the community in which he lived. He was a member of the MSU Athletic Hall of Fame, coached Little League Baseball, was an active member of Hope Lutheran Church, the Bozeman Rotary Club, where he was named Rotarian of the Year, and the Elks Lodge.

Upon retirement from MSU in 1950, Hayden and Marlene enjoyed traveling extensively to England, Scotland, Spain, Peru, China, Mexico, Taiwan, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Germany, and most of the US. They just picked a place that intrigued them and went! Many times he would stop at the local café in a small town when he knew the farmers would be having coffee, so he could chat about the local crops and farming techniques.

Even after retirement, he continued his interest in the Ag field as a moderator for the Montana Ag Live television program on PBS. He enjoyed the task and took pride in the show’s ability to deliver information to its viewers, and wherever he would travel, someone would inevitably recognize the voice!

He was a soil scientist, no doubt, but he was so much more than honors, achievements, and awards. He was a rural Montana man in his heart. He was humble, so intelligent, and energetic (he never could sit still!). Hayden was a descendent of Gallatin County pioneers, and avid reader of Montana history and every newspaper he could get his hands on. Road trips were always a little longer because he had to find the local newspaper and catch up on their sports. He loved a good Scotch whiskey and had a few unique "Haydenisms". When asked how he was, he would respond, "Better than I deserve" or "Considering my age and my girth, I’m doing fine". He also quipped that he'd rather be seen than viewed. He definitely had a witty sense of humor, and usually poked fun at himself. Many times, at supper we were joined by Robert Service or Rudyard Kipling as Hayden recited by heart their poetry for our entertainment.

He was always a Bobcat. He could usually be seen donning his blue and gold beanie at any and all men’s and women’s practices and events. Many of us remember (or were embarrassed by) his very recognizable voice at MSU basketball and football games booming across the Fieldhouse or stadium. He loved and supported MSU athletics all the ways he could. Hayden and Marlene traveled many times with the Cats to cheer on the teams.

He was the best of the best husband and dad. He loved, supported, and encouraged us unconditionally. He worked hard, but he always found time for family camping trips, fishing, golf, Sunday drives, and making his own roads in the red Jeep in the mountains. He was a good friend and helped when he saw the needs of others.

Special thanks to Dr. Robert Hathaway and nurse Katie for their outstanding care over the years.

Our hearts are broken, but we know he is walking the fields, fishing in the streams, and exploring the mountains with Link.

A Memorial Service will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Saturday, October 26 at Hope Lutheran Church.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Hope Lutheran Church, 2152 Graf St., Bozeman, MT 59718; or the Hayden Ferguson Ag Communications Scholarship Fund, c/o MSU Foundation, P.O. Box 172750, Bozeman, MT 59715 (memo line: “Hayden Ferguson Scholarship”) or

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. []