Retired Maj. Ray Ferman served in the U.S. Army and later U.S. Air Force for two decades years at the end of World War II and through the Cold War, and has volunteered for more than 20 years with Meals on Wheels of Texoma.
At age 94, Ferman still continues to deliver meals to elderly people in need across Texoma. For this and his military service, Ferman is being recognized as a Hometown Hero — an award recently organized by senior advocate Rayce Guess.
“I just enjoy the opportunity to be helpful,” he said. “A lot of people on the routes become friends. I may not always know their last name, but I always know their first name.”
Ferman's tenure in the military started in 1943 when he enlisted in what was then the U.S. Army Air Corps, following the footsteps of his brother. While his brother ultimately was unable to serve in the Air Corps due to vision issues, Ferman decided to continue in that direction.
“I figured if it was good enough for my brother, it was good enough for me,” he said.
Ferman received his pre-cadet training at Mississippi State College and continued to receive flight training through Texas before graduating at Aloe Army Airfield near Victoria, Texas.
Following his graduation in 1945, he was stationed at Perrin Field, now known as North Texas Regional Airport, in a continuation training program. Ferman said at the time he thought his superiors were waiting for something.
“They put us in a holding pattern … because, I think, think they had it up their sleeve how they were going to end the war,” he said, referring to the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan, ending the war.
It was during his time in Texoma that he met Anita F. Brewer — the woman who would later become his wife. After continuing his service stateside following the war, Ferman was given his order to serve in Occupation Germany. Anita asked if she could come with him to Europe.
“The only way we could make that work was to right quick get married,” he said.
At the time, Germany was still reeling from the affects and devastation of World War II. While Ferman said conditions in the German capital were bad, Nuremberg was worse off after the war.
“They weren't in too good of shape, but they were starting to recover,” he said.
It was during his time in Germany that Ferman participated in what would be known as the Berlin airlift. In mid-1949, the Soviet Union blocked supply access to the sectors of Berlin that were under western control. In response, the U.S. and western allies conducted a 15-month operation that involved supplies being delivered into Berlin via large aircraft.
Ferman said he would run about two flights a day to deliver supplies to the city. While his loads were usually food, he would sometimes deliver coal or any other supply that was needed.
During these operations, Ferman was one of many pilots who participated in what was popularly known as “Operation Little Vittles.” During into Berlin, many pilots would drop pieces of candy for the children of German out of the aircraft. After word got out of the operation, children in the U.S. organized support for the effort and more than 20 tons of candy is thought to have been dropped as a part of the operation.
Ferman said he could remember purchasing candy from the military exchange as a part of the relief effort for the children.
“Gum was a favorite to throw out because even if it got a little wet, it would still be OK,” he said.
Following his retirement in 1963, Ferman continued to work in the civilian sector, including stints with Boeing, until he mostly retired in the 1990s. It was during this time that he started his work with Meals on Wheels as a way of getting out of the house.
Anita was the first one to begin work with the organization, and Ferman would accompany her when he was in town between trips as a consultant.
“She always roped me into helping her,” he said. “She got to doing it every day. It was like her job.”
Ferman continued to work with the organization even after Anita's death in 2015. With his age, Ferman has had to step back somewhat from his work with the organization. He now helps serve as a back-up driver and usually accompanies his granddaughter.
“It gives me something to do, other than just sitting at hime in the recliner,” he said.