Ray Ferns transitioned from this life suddenly and peacefully on March 27th, 2022 at his home in Stevenson, Washington. He was born on July 20th, 1952 in Medford, Oregon to Leonard and Barbara Ferns. He was 69 years of age at the time of his passing. He met his spouse Kathleen Ferns in Eugene, Oregon in 1980 and they recently celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary.
Ray was proud of his service in the Navy aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, which enabled him to pursue a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminology at Southern Oregon College (SOC), and a Master’s of Science in Correctional Planning and Development at the University of Oregon.
Professionally, Ray was instrumental in the field of Corrections. His career began with the Oregon Department of Corrections where he received several awards for his leadership and dedication over his twenty-year tenure coordinating services and support for a range of people involved in the justice system. One of his many accolades from that time included Probation Officer of the Year. In 1988 he was promoted to a position overseeing state parole and probation for a five-county region in Oregon, which brought his family to the Columbia River Gorge. He retired from the state of Oregon in 1999, and the second half of his career was spent as a trainer and organizational consultant in the coordination of correctional service agencies spanning state and local jurisdictions in over two dozen states. In this work he was known as an agent of change and a gifted consultant on cognitive behavioral interventions and organizational change. He held credit among the many professionals he trained, as he had been ‘in the trenches’ of the work for many years.
He loved his work, and was extremely dedicated to his fervent belief in the power of the human condition −that all people maintain the capacity for change. Just a month ago in a project he was working on with his daughter Meghan, Ray explained: “From a professional perspective the creation of Restorative Correctional Services and the correctional training products Effective Communications and Motivational Strategies (ECMS) I consider my greatest professional contributions and achievements. Knowing that the material I crafted helped to change correctional cultures in a way that improved the lives of staff within correctional institutions and people receiving services within those agencies is a legacy that I am proud of and confident in. Certifying over 1000 people in the ECMS material and creating a process to “train trainers” in the material has helped me have at least some confidence that this material/approach will outlast my lifetime.” Ironically, Ray lost two of his most precious mentors, University of Oregon Professor Kenneth Viegas, and University of Cincinnati Professor Doctor Edward Latessa this past year −two men who also left powerful legacies as innovators in criminal justice reform.
Ray was an avid outdoorsman. He loved hunting, fishing, hiking, 4-wheeling, boating -he found his understanding of God in nature. Ray was also a lifelong athlete. His favorite sports as a young man included football, wrestling, and track all of which he was accomplished at.
During his middle years, while raising a family in the Gorge, Ray also enjoyed his time and community at the Hood River Sports Club where he was affectionately known as “the train” for his feats in weightlifting. He may still hold some records for his squats, cleans, and bench presses. In his retirement he relished opportunities for deep sea fishing in Manzanillo, Mexico. This past January he caught a Marlin he was quite proud of. Recently, he found great joy and camaraderie in Pickle Ball, which he played daily in Stevenson, Washington.
Ray is survived by his spouse Kathleen Ferns, his children Levi Ferns (Larry) of Portland, OR, Justin South (Hellen) of Janesville, WI, Gabriel South of Belmont, CA, Meghan Perry (Robb) of Stevenson, WA; his grandchildren Emma Ferns of Flagstaff, AZ, Hope Ferns of Portland, OR, Breyden South and Aaliyah Housely of Janesville, WI, Opal Perry of Stevenson, WA; his father Leonard Larson Ferns of Medford, OR, and siblings Mark Ferns (Betsy) of Baker City, OR, Susan Truly (John) and Alan Ferns of Medford, OR. Ray is also survived by a large, loving extended family including his brother and sister in laws and nieces and nephews whom he adored. He is predeceased by his mother Barbara Ferns, and his granddaughter Aila Nova Perry.
Many of Ray’s close friendships included people he knew since childhood, like his friend Mike Wolfe whom he enjoyed hunting for caribou with in Alaska. In more recent years he developed deep friendships with a great many people whom he dialogued with regularly about opportunities to heal a deeply divided nation. Many people have and continue to share how Ray helped them to think differently, to expand understanding, to build curiosity and compassion, and to look again. As his friend and editor Scott explains, “when we felt like giving up on talking to people with whom we disagreed, Ray always saw the silver lining -the opportunity- and would encourage us to be more understanding and empathetic. He was quite the optimist, consummate professional, and master at his craft!”
Ray’s family will hold a celebration of his life in southern Oregon later this Spring on his family property, a place of deep spiritual significance to him.
"The family appreciates your kind words and support during this time. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a charitable donation to Insight Prison Project - a program modeled on principles of restorative justice."
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