Wed, April 08

Belle Fergin: A life of challenge and memorable experiences

Belle Fergin and her daughter Katarina Hutchinson. Courtesy photo

Belle Fergin and her daughter Katarina Hutchinson. Courtesy photo

May of 1952. Frieda had a premonition, rose in the middle of the night, climbed on her bicycle and rode across the Glienicke Bridge into West Berlin.

The next day East Germany closed the bridge, trapping her family. She later married Julius Fergin, a pilot, and had three daughters, Bärbel (Belle) being the oldest. Surgery in 1961 meant Frieda would need someone to watch her girls for three weeks.

They wanted to stay with their grandparents on their farm near East Berlin. Frieda again had a bad feeling and insisted they stay in West Berlin.

Three days later the barbed wire wall went up and anyone on the East Berlin side was locked in forever.

Frieda’s mom pulled her out of school in 8th grade to work the family farm, which gave Frieda a deep passion to see her own daughters educated and experience life.

All this shaped Belle Fergin’s life, giving her a love of education, learning, philosophy and a spirit of adventure, a willingness to attempt anything. When sharing stories about her mother you can feel Belle’s deep respect and admiration.

When JFK visited Berlin in 1963, Belle’s mom took the girls and a tall step ladder, setting them up on a corner. Belle said, “as the motorcade passed is, President Kennedy’s eyes locked with mine and, even as a child, I knew that was a very special moment.”

Belle’s parents divorced when she was 13. Her mom took on long hours to pay the bills, leaving Belle to raise her sisters, then 11 and 8.

She cooked, cleaned, got them up, dressed, off to school, organized and oversaw group travel, including flights to other countries. Belle was never upset about that, realizing it all gave her opportunities to learn and grow - teaching her she could do anything.

At 8, Belle began accordion lessons, carrying her heavy instrument up and down flights of stairs to her teacher’s apartment.

While at her local community center, Belle met American soldiers who came to the train depot next door for supplies.

They shared ice cream, watermelon and more, leaving her in awe of their kindness and generosity. She eventually got a degree in Administration and Justice, minoring in Psychology, married an American pilot (Hutch), had four of her own children and raised her stepson as her own.

In 1986, Hutch moved the family to Fountain Hills, and flew for America West. Belle was adjusting to life in America, desired to be with her kids more and chose to become heavily involved in their schools, volunteering almost full-time (and making a best friend for life).

She took three years of guitar studies at ASU, designed amazing themed birthday parties, (“my friends said my creativity made things magical”), and took flight lessons.

Belle once was privileged to be in the cockpit as her husband landed a 737 in heavy winds using a “slip” maneuver.

After a painful and protracted divorce, she worked selling tickets for the Phoenix Symphony, tutored and taught German at ASU, and worked as a high-level translator, including for the likes of BMW.

Belle invited to dinner a visiting Russian guitarist, considered to be the world’s best in his style. The evening ended with him and her guitar professor playing unpublished songs in her living room after dinner.

Already a baker, opportunity to open a coffee shop led Belle down a new path. She opened, operated and sold shops. In 2016 she was invited to help open the coffee and pastry aspect of the Pump House in Tlaquepaque North and moved to the VOC.

“My childhood wasn’t easy with all of the challenges handed to me. But my creativity and the opportunity of having these amazing experiences made all the difference.”

Jim Cunningham, Jr. is a pastor, husband, father, lover of people, friend, neighbor, counselor, teacher, book collector, and jack-of-all-trades. Meet him here each month to become acquainted with yet another Village resident.

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