Dr. Thomas John Ferrara, 88, of Rockford, Illinois, died peacefully of natural causes Sunday, January 31, 2016 at home with his wife, Karen at his side. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children: Marirose Ferrara(John Mullin) of Oak Park, IL, Dr. Hope (Dr. Richard) Ferrara Snively of Herndon, VA and Carina (Jeffery Furst) Ferrara-Furst of Rockford, IL, his grandchildren: Sabina Ferrara Mullin (Benjamin Schmuck) 32, Lena FerraraMullin 25, Michael Snively 28, Lauren Snively 25, Carly Snively 24, Joseph Snively 20, Thomas Ferrara Furst 15, Alexander Furst 11, Isabel Furst 11 and his great-grandchildren: Albert Schmuck 3 and Dominic Schmuck 1. He is predeceased by his wife Mary-Hope, and his elder sister, Mary Timothy.
He was born June 23, 1927 in North Adams, MA, the son of Gennaro and Rose (Cinalla) Ferrara. His childhood nick name was Juney. He graduated from Drury High School, attended Williams College and St. Michael’s Seminary. He went on to graduate from Illinois College of Optometry and was a practicing optometrist for 50 years. He was a veteran of the Army and the National Guard. On February 6, 1954, he married his wife of 53 years, Mary-Hope (Carini, predeceased). The couple moved to Belvidere, IL in 1963, where they raised their three daughters. Tom cherished the six years of love and companionship he and his wife Karen shared. They were married January 8, 2010. Once retired, he spent time exercising at the YMCA, following his beloved Chicago Cubs, going out dancing with Karen, and playing cards.
Tom grew up in the Berkshire Mountains next to the Appalachian Trail and was proud to have spent time hiking there. His parents named him Gaetano Gennaro, and he grew up speaking Italian in a community of immigrants, surrounded by music. During WWII he trained as a ski paratrooper, learning to jump from planes and ski down the Berkshire Mountains. He performed his patriotic duties and loved to march in The Veteran’s Day Parade. His Catholic Faith was important to him throughout his life, and he attended seminary for two years prior to meeting and falling in love with his wife of 53 years.
He and Mary-Hope moved to Belvidere in 1963. He opened his Optometry practice in Belvidere and began Family Optical Centre Inc. in 1974. He loved his profession and his staff. He oversaw his offices until the week of his death. He was an enthusiastic community booster, and gave of his time in many ways. He was a proud Rotarian, and member of the “Noon” Rotary Club, holding a 40 year “perfect” attendance record. He was a past member of the Kiwanis Club of Belvidere, and the Sister Cities of Belvidere. He served as an Alderman in Belvidere. and was a regional School Board Trustee for many years. He volunteered at St. James Catholic Church in Belvidere where he was a lector and a member of the Knight of Columbus, council #735. and was a 4th Degree Grand Knight during his tenure. After retirement he became active at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, as a member/President of the Holy Name Society.
Dr. Tom was a proud Italian-American. He stressed the importance of family, friendship and perseverance. His positive attitude encouraged others to focus on the good things in life. He always remembered to thank friends and family for their hard work. He loved to sing. His favorite song was, “You are My Sunshine,” which he sang with his family until the day of his death. He encouraged his family to always do the best they could. His motto was, “Don’t tell me what you can’t do; tell me what you can do, and for Heaven’s sake, DO IT.” He treated everyone with respect and always held himself to a high moral standard.
Tom was a life-long learner, and set challenges for himself. Once he set a goal, he was driven and focused until he achieved it. He earned a triple black belt in karate, biked throughout Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, participated in team canoe events. He loved to meet new people, and hear their stories. He and Mary-Hope travelled throughout the world, and were active members in the Sister Cities program.
Many thanks to Heartland Hospice, his long time Parish nurse Vicki Pooley and his care givers Dawn Huffner, and Shirley Griffin for their compassion, friendship and skilled assistance.
Liturgy of Christian Burial will be at 10:00 a.m., Monday, February 8th, 2016 at St. James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL with Rev. Brian Geary celebrating. Prayers will be at 9:30 a.m., Monday, February 8th, 2016 at Anderson Funeral and Cremation Services, 218 W. Hurlbut Ave, Belvidere IL. Visitation will be from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Sunday, February 7th at the funeral home. A prayer and personal reflection service will be held Sunday at 3:45 p.m. Memorials can be made in honor of Dr. Thomas J. Ferrara to St James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL, The Belvidere YMCA, or Belvidere Rotary Club.
To light a candle or share a memory, visit www.AndersonFCS.com