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Ted Pritchard 'was tenacious until the end'

In this edition of Journeys, we spoke with those close to Ted Pritchard, who spent his life trying to make people laugh while making a difference in his community

Ted Pritchard was known in the community for helping to bring three-stream waste removal to condominiums in Guelph, as well as his advocacy for various other community issues. But to friends and family, he was known as a loving and funny artist who lived – and died – on his own terms. 

Pritchard, 78, died surrounded by loved ones on June 9 through the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) program, which he had been an advocate for ever since it was introduced in 2016. 

“He was very adamant that he wanted to finish his life comfortably in his own home. And when things got too bad, he didn’t really want to experience that,” said Dylan Pritchard, one of his two sons. 

The program acted as a safety net for his father, Dylan said, allowing him to live his life without holding back, which is what he had always done, even after being diagnosed with prostate cancer nine years ago. 

Ted had a knack for making people laugh, and making them feel comfortable. 

“Even with serious issues, Ted could find humour,” said Ted’s friend and city councillor Phil Allt, who first met Ted when he began lobbying for waste removal years ago. “He was quite prepared to share a laugh about even some of the saddest things, and some of those things that make you really angry.”

That knack only grew stronger with his cancer diagnosis.

“He was the kind of person to make people laugh, to put them at ease, up until the end," Dylan said.

When he was first diagnosed, Ted was only given five years to live. That was nine years ago, and Dylan credits much of his father's resilience to his general outlook on life. 

“He was a very pragmatic, happy person,” he said. “He wasn’t gonna let it get him down.” 

Throughout his life, Ted had a strong sense that everything was going to be ok, something Dylan always admired in him. 

“After his cancer diagnosis, he just made a point of being unstoppable, even though you could see how he was struggling sometimes,” said former city councillor James Gordon, who met Ted just as Allt had during delegations. 

“When his cancer affected his mobility, you’d often see him zipping along in his little scooter and trying to make the best of everything,” Gordon added. 

Ted moved to Guelph 20 years ago with his late wife Anna Maria Picco, falling in love with the city after Dylan and his brother Jeremy attended the University of Guelph. Before retiring, he worked as a teacher and a principal, and loved helping kids, watching them grow, and getting to know them year after year. 

He liked to keep busy after retiring by advocating for various community issues and organizing things like community barbecues or river clean ups. He was also the director of his condo complex for almost two decades, and was an active member of the Guelph Wellington Men’s Club.  

When Gordon and Allt started Breezy Breakfast together, Ted was their most regular audience member. 

“He was there every week. And always had interesting opinions,” Gordon said. “He seemed to good-humouredly take on a curmudgeon role, always questioning, always second guessing, which turned out to be a really valuable role to play, because he was asking valuable questions.”

Gordon said he would also run into Ted at the Evergreen Centre during events, where he would be “showing leadership and good humour and really making everyone feel comfortable."

“People like Ted make a difference," he said.

He was so politically involved that his family would regularly joke that if the mayor or city councillors wanted to learn how the seniors were feeling in the city, they would call Ted. 

“Everybody knew who he was. Everybody was really glad to see him at all times,” Dylan said. 

And when his wife Anna died last year, the community was there to support him; there was always someone around to take him to shopping or to doctors' appointments. 

“He was a really special and very loved person, because he was very genuine. And really worked hard for his community, wherever he was," Dylan said. 

When Ted wasn't busy advocating for change in his community or running events, he loved to paint and spend time with his three grandchildren, whom he adored. 

“He was always a good father. But he was an amazing grandfather,” Dylan said. “He would do anything for his grandchildren.

“One time we were driving back from the airport at four in the morning, and my car started breaking down. We were in Mississauga, and we called him, and he came and picked up both the kids at four in the morning and took them back to his place.” 

Leaving on his own terms through the MAID program meant the last week of his life was spent mostly meeting with his friends and neighbours, who came by in droves to say their goodbyes and thank him for his contributions to the community. 

“He always wanted to lead the best life he could, and his community to be the best community that it could be,” Gordon said. 

“He was tenacious right up to the end,” Allt said.