Big Isle police chief gained wide respect
Ernest J. Fergerstrom / 1917-2006
HILO » Former Big Island Police Chief Ernest John "Fergie" Fergerstrom, remembered for the open way he ran the Police Department in 1970-1976, died Tuesday at his home in Hilo. He was 88.
"He was one of the finest police officers I ever had the good fortune to know on this island," said his attorney and friend, Stanley Roehrig. "He was open and honest."
Ironically, Fergerstrom is often remembered because of a secret attempt to fire him.
In 1976, Fergerstrom's eventual successor, Guy Paul, asked Fergerstrom for an endorsement prior to Fergerstrom retiring, said Fergerstrom's son Dale. Fergerstrom turned Paul down.
The leader of the Police Commission was retired Judge Albert Felix, a friend of Paul's father, former Chief Anthony Paul. In a secret meeting, the commission voted to remove Fergerstrom.
Lawsuits followed in which Circuit Judge Ernest Kubota ruled that the secret meeting violated the Hawaii County Charter's openness requirement. Fergerstrom got his job back and served several months more before retiring.
Fergerstrom's sister, Florence Wanic, remembered her brother in their childhood on the coast north of Hilo as a serious boy who did things "by the book."
Fergerstrom, his brother Gilbert and Wanic's first husband, Fred Einsenaugle, were in the Navy in Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. They jumped into a ditch as bombs fell, she said.
Fergerstrom joined the Big Island police after the war.
Son Dale, still a boy, went on cockfight raids with his patrolman father, who conducted the raids single-handedly. Fergerstrom pointed at cockfighters, ordered them to drive to the Honokaa police station, then drove off. All of those fingered showed up to be charged, the son said.
Once Fergerstrom broke up a fight and arrested one man, but a second man knocked him to the ground. The first man then came to his father's aid, the son said.
One time, teenagers were tearing through Honokaa in their cars at night. Fergerstrom went out in his pajamas and arrested them, Dale Fergerstrom said.
Two men sent to prison by Fergerstrom later gave him a koa bowl and a plaque that they made in prison.
When the Police Commission fired Fergerstrom, the police union threatened to strike to support him. Fergerstrom told them not to, his son said.
After Fergerstrom was forced out, an old man walked up to him and said, "Too bad, no?"
That was the highest tribute his father could receive, Dale Fergerstrom said.
Services are scheduled for next week in Hilo. Friends may call 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at Dodo Mortuary. Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. Joseph's Church. Burial will be at noon at Veterans Cemetery No. 2.
Fergerstrom is survived by his wife Florence "Flossie"; son Dale; daughters Ann Fergerstrom and Fay Lindsey; sister Florence Wanic; brothers Herman and Robert; five grandsons; and a great-granddaughter.