Mrs. Jo M. Ferguson died September 18, 2012 at the Atria Springdale in Louisville, Kentucky.
She was the former Margarita (“Gita”) Hauser, the daughter of Dip.Ing. Franz Hauser and Selma Kessler Hauser, born in Ossegg, Czechoslovakia, on December 10, 1924.
She was a graduate of the Real Gymnasium in Dux, Czechoslovakia, and was a medical student at the University of Vienna and the University of Prague, finishing her second year of medicine at the latter University on April 30, 1945, just as the Russian Army was approaching the city in the last week of World War II in Europe.
In an attempt to escape the city and return to her home, she was able, due to her fluent German, to obtain a pass on a Luftwaffe truck headed westward. After the truck was strafed and one of its passengers killed near Chiemsee, she stayed in a Bavarian farmhouse until the American Army came, then, speaking English, showed the American soldiers that the village was clear of German troops. She then caught a ride on a truck with Polish concentration camp escapees headed for Munich. Speaking Czech, she could understand these people, whose Polish language was related to Czech.
After being stopped on the autobahn by an American patrol 30 miles south of Munich, she refused to go to a Displaced Persons camp, but instead was able, through her knowledge of English, to persuade the American lieutenant to drive her in his Jeep the rest of the way to Munich to the home of some acquaintances. This was V-E Day, May 8, 1945. She was never able to get back to her home.
Her father was a coal operator and was expelled by the Communists (luckily his men saved him by hiding him in the mine for three days after the Russian troops came in). The family was totally separated for nearly a year, and young Gita had to seek work in Munich.
She applied to Military Government and was hired as an interpreter by the American officer who later became her husband, Captain Jo M. Ferguson. They were married in Grunwald-bei-Munchen in August 1947 and returned to Kentucky, where her husband became involved in politics. The couple lived in Frankfort where their three daughters were born. She was an active hostess when her husband was Attorney General and Chairman of the Southern Attorneys General, and was known to many political leaders in the South and other parts of the United States (she was known as the “Zsa Zsa Gabor” of the Chandler and Combs Administrations in Frankfort).
She was a member of the Woman’s Club of Louisville, The Alliance, the Louisville Boat Club (where she was an active tennis player), and St. Louis Bertrand Church.
She is survived by her daughters, Rita Ferguson Ross of Ft. Thomas (the late Bruce Ross), Diane Ferguson (Gregory Bell) of Prospect and Jo Frances (Robert) Garrison of Raleigh, North Carolina; seven grandchildren, Jacqueline (Michael) Roche of Huntsville, Alabama, Nicholas Ferguson-Bell of Louisville, KY, Margaret (Thomas) Cunningham of Woodlawn, Kentucky, Alexander Ferguson-Bell of Louisville, KY, Cecilia Ferguson-Bell (John Hurley) of Chicago, IL, Mack Garrison of Raleigh, NC, and Anna Garrison of Raleigh, NC; four great-grandchildren; a niece, Susie Hauser (Bruce) of Salt Lake City, Utah; a nephew, Dr. Peter Hauser (Cathy) of Los Angeles, California; and a niece Molly (Bill) Alward of South Carrollton, KY.
Funeral Service 1:30 p.m. Saturday September 22, 2012 at St. Louis Bertrand Catholic Church 1104 S. 6th St. Louisville, with burial at a later date at Pine Grove Cemetery in South Carrollton. Visitation 4-6 p.m. Friday at Pearson’s 149 Breckenridge Lane.
Memorial gifts: St. Louis Bertrand Church, Louisville, Kentucky, or donor’s choice.