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Man writes California a $10,000 check -- repayment for help 40 years ago

December 16, 2010 | 11:53 am

Nearly five decades after the state helped Dennis R. Ferguson get through a rough patch of unemployment, he has decided to give something back to California now that it is having money problems.

Ferguson, who is retired and living in South Carolina, wrote a $10,000 check to the state to pay back, with "interest,'' unemployment benefits he received 46 years ago while living in Los Angeles. He wrote on the check: "REPAYMENT FOR WHAT CALIF. DID FOR ME.''

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer said the money will go to public schools.

"It's appropriate this money will go to educate our kids, because there's a lesson to be learned here about what it means to have a sense of shared sacrifice and commitment to the common good," Lockyer said.

Ferguson was 26 years old and paying $25 a week to live in a West Los Angeles hotel when he was laid off from his job as an engineer at Douglas Aircraft in 1964.

Lockyer estimated that Ferguson, who is now 74, received unemployment checks totaling about $1,100 over approximately 20 weeks that year, which allowed him to return to school to study computer programming.

He received a certificate and got a job at Belmont Savings and Loan in Seal Beach. A year later he moved up to a programming job at Honeywell in Los Angeles.

Lockyer said that Ferguson was grateful for the help and wanted to show his appreciation by adding "interest" to the check he sent the state. Ferguson told officials that $10,000 was a "nice round figure.''

The unemployment assistance "allowed me to have a great career and I've been ever thankful," Ferguson wrote in a note attached to the check.

"Anyone who is helped out when they are down ought to give something back, especially now that California has budget problems," he said in a statement released by the treasurer.

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

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