Ferman Yearby, Jr., 99, Rockport

Ferman Martin Yearby, Jr., was born on January 20, 1920 (one of eight children, four girls and four boys) to Ferman M. Yearby, Sr. and Nannie L. Harris in Durham, North Carolina.

He was preceded in death by his parents; wife Alma Joyce (Dawson) Yearby; brothers Bill, Harry, and Don Yearby; and sisters Virginia Ahl and Elnora Yearby.

He is survived by his sisters Betty Coultas of Chrisney and Linda Yearby of Florida; daughter Gay Williams (Steve) of Eddyville, KY, and sons Ferman Yearby III of Rockport, and Ron Yearby (Kay) of Ellettsville; grandchildren Ron Yearby II (Bryne) of Ellettsville, Kristi Westervelt (Deacon) of Havré, Belgium, Jennifer Hollander (Nate) of Carmel, and Jayne Ann Jennings (John) of Bowling Green, KY; nine great-grandchildren Adam Jennings, Lana Jennings Graham, Addison Yearby, Jackson Westervelt, Julia Westervelt, Michael Yearby, Annabelle Yearby, Mason Hollander and McCoy Hollander.

Ferman graduated from Chrisney High School in 1937. He is a WWII veteran who enlisted on February 20, 1942. He was a flight engineer with the rank of Staff Sergeant and flew on various aircraft with the task of testing and staging new aircraft. He first entered the Army/Air Force at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. He did basic training at Sheppard Field, Texas and then was deployed to Hunter Field in Savannah, Georgia from 1942-1945. While on leave from Hunter Field, Ferman married Joyce Dawson on March 12, 1943. In Mid-1945, he was transferred to McClellan Field, California. He was discharged there on November 14, 1945.

Prior to his military service, he worked at Stahl Packing in Evansville as a meat cutter. After returning from the service, Ferman and Joyce opened a small country grocery store in southern Grass Township where they peddled groceries out of an old, converted school bus. In the late 1940s Joyce and Ferman, along with Ferman’s family, started a photography business with the help of their cousins, the Strawbridges, who had a photography business in North Carolina. Ferman and his family took pictures in many one-room schools in Kentucky and Illinois.

In 1949, Laird Schoenfeld encouraged Ferman and Joyce to move to Rockport to continue their photography business. From 1949 to 1953 the photography business was located above Schoenfeld Drug Store. In 1953 they moved to the corner of 4th and Elm in Rockport where they operated until the late 1980s. They specialized in weddings, portraits, school pictures, and general commercial photography. They also provided many pictures for The Rockport Journal and The Rockport Democrat. Ferman took the pictures, while they both developed the negatives and made the prints. Joyce specialized in retouching and hand-painting the portraits. One of their accounts for many years was with Santa Claus Land where they would photograph children and families with Santa Claus. They took pictures for schools located in Spencer, Warrick, Dubois, Perry and Vanderburgh Counties.

At an early age, Ferman became interested in politics. In 1940, he was selected to be an usher during Wendell Willkie’s presidential notification party in Elwood, Indiana. He became a member of the Spencer County Young Republicans, and during this time he attended state and national conventions. He was chosen as Spencer County Republican County Chairman and held this post at different times during the 1950-1980s period. His wife, Joyce, was the Vice Chairman of the Republican Party for the eighth district of Indiana in the 1950s. He was elected Rockport Mayor in 1965 and served until 1991. His political career afforded him the opportunity to meet and speak with presidents, vice-presidents, senators, congressmen, governors, lieutenant governors, state legislators, many city and county officials and numerous party workers.

Ferman always prided himself in maintaining low taxes and providing good roads. He was happiest when he was able to help others. Ferman was instrumental in obtaining funding to build the new city hall and much of the government housing for the city of Rockport. He, along with Bill Koch, worked with state and national leaders to locate major roads in Spencer County including Interstate 64, the new Natcher Bridge, and new US 231. He worked with state and national leaders in bringing American Electric Power to the Rockport area, and also acquiring pollution control bonding.

Ferman was honored as an Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash, a Kentucky Colonel, an alternate delegate for the Indiana Presidential Electoral College for the election of 1960, an appointed member of the Indiana Coal Commission by the governor, and served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention for Ronald Reagan’s second term representing the eighth district of Indiana. Ferman was a member and president of the Spencer County Fair Assoc. for many years, and a member of Rockport American Legion Post 254, Rockport Masonic Lodge No. 112, a Hadi Shriner, and a charter member of Chrisney Baptist Church.

Other personal interests included spending time with his grandchildren, growing roses and tomatoes, attending and supporting Rockport and South Spencer sporting events, and watching American Legion and Rockport semi-pro baseball. He loved dogs and was an avid St. Louis Cardinal fan.

Funeral services were at Boultinghouse Funeral Home in Rockport on Friday, October 4 with Pastor Mike Turner officiating the ceremony. Burial followed at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Rockport.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Spencer County Historical Society and/or the Spencer County Fair Association.

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