The West Coast will celebrate the profound impact a lifelong local and iconic first responder had on his community this weekend.
Cancer has robbed Ted Eeftink of his retirement. He died on Nov. 9. He was 64 years old.
Ted’s widow Tracy Eeftink told the Westerly News they received the diagnosis in April, the same day they had sold their Majestic Ocean Kayaking business with their eyes on retiring.
“It was that same day,” Tracy said, adding Ted was looking forward to finally taking it easy.
“He wanted to retire and I said ‘OK, well if you want to retire then so do I.’ I hadn’t thought about it. He’s 64 and I’m 62 and it’s time to retire and then we could go and do things ourselves. We were working so hard.”
She said when they received the diagnosis, they immediately set their minds on beating it, but struggled to find available care.
“We just wanted the best care possible. Whatever it takes, we wanted him to have the very best care possible. That was the biggest thing that went through our minds, he’s going to beat it,” she said.
“It was very difficult to get any help. It’s the way things are right now. There’s a lot of delays, overcrowding of hospitals; it was a challenge. We both wanted to be super positive. We wanted to be happy. We weren’t depressed. We were not bummed out, even though we went to so many hospitals and appointments in that six months…He was very positive and he always looked vibrant. He had that sparkle in his eyes, he really liked the doctors and the nurses, but the biggest stress was the delays with appointments.”
She said Ted received care at hospitals throughout the Island and the mainland before heading to Ontario for a special therapy.
“Nothing else was working, the cancer was outrunning the treatments,” she said.
When they arrived in Ontario, they were told he had only a few days left. His two sons were called and arrived that day to spend his final days with him.
“Someone from here arranged for the Toronto Fire Chief to come in and pay Ted his respects and thank him for his years of volunteering. They had a lovely conversation, it was very inspiring for Ted,” Tracy said, adding friends arrived as well.
“We got some nice visits and he had his boys around him and that was good that we made something of it and made it nice and memorable for him. He passed away peacefully and he was well taken care of.”
A celebration of Ted’s life will be held at the Ucluelet Community Centre on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 1 p.m.
“That’s going to be standing room only for sure. It will be a great way to commemorate him and what a great person he was. I’m sure there will be some lovely stories told and there’s going to be a lot of tears shed that day,” said Ucluelet mayor Marilyn McEwen. “He was the type of person that just gave of his time very unselfishly and helped people in any way he could possibly do it. It’s a huge loss to the community.”
Ted was born in 1958 at the Tofino Hospital. His mom and dad had travelled to the community from Holland. He was the oldest of four sons.
He spent his entire life in Ucluelet, though spent four years travelling back and forth from a mechanic school in Nanaimo while working as an apprentice with MacMillan Bloedel.
“He was a really sentimental, soft hearted guy. That’s why he stayed here. Why would you want to leave? There’s so much to do here,” Tracy said.
She recalled meeting Ted when he fixed her vehicle on the first day she arrived in Ucluelet.
“He was really hard working, very honest. You knew he’d do a good job and you’re not going to have to worry about it. You could count on him,” she said.
Ted opened the Petro Canada service station in 1993, the same year Tracy launched Majestic Ocean Kayaking and the two businesses shared Ucluelet’s Business of the Year award.
Tracy said she quickly became close friends with Ted and his first wife, who passed away several years later.
“I felt really sad when his wife passed away. She was a friend as well. When his wife passed away all I could think about was him and the boys. I just couldn’t get it out of my mind, so I became the step mom and those boys were amazing and we had a wonderful life and a wonderful family,” she said.
She said Ted was a “very loving, very generous” father who taught his sons how to do everything in the garage as well as how to enjoy the West Coast.
“They were very capable. He took them hunting, fishing and hiking and they had motorbikes and four-wheelers,” she said. “When I came along, I got them into kayaking and learning about nature. They had a very well rounded and very, very happy family life.”
Tracy and Ted got married in 2002. They celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary on Nov. 2.
Shortly after their wedding, Ted sold the garage to work with Tracy full time at Majestic Ocean Kayaking.
“We wanted to be together all the time. We wanted to support each other. It was a big step to sell that garage and come and join me in the kayaking. That was a really big step,” Tracy said, adding Ted handled operations and she handled administration and customer service and the pair formed a perfect fit.
“When we got together, the stars all aligned because we were perfect together. He was my soul mate and we talked about that all the time,” she said. “What made it work is we both felt 100 per cent responsible every day for everything. We didn’t even have to say it, it was just done. If I asked him to do something for me he would do it and if I saw that he needed something I would do it. Nothing was ever calculated between us about what was fair…We were partners in everything. The only time we weren’t together was when he went to the fire hall. That was his thing. He loved the fire hall, loved the guys and he loved the fire trucks.”
Ted joined the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1993. Then Fire Chief Keith Martin had worked with Ted at Macmillan Bloedel and talked him into signing up, according to Tracy.
“Keith just loved Ted and thought he was amazing and got him to join the fire department,” she said. “It was a big thing in his life, the social part of it, the comradery with the guys, but also he really liked helping people a lot…When he had the garage, he had a tow truck and he was out on the highway rescuing people all the time.”
Ted spent 30 years on the Volunteer Fire Brigade, serving as Fire Chief for the last 10 before retiring from the position in 2019. He received a Long Service Medal and plaque from the province as well as a National Service Award from the Governor General of Canada in recognition of his dedication to the brigade.
Current Fire Chief Rick Geddes recalled being struck by how kind and humble Ted was.
“He was very humble and a truly gentle man in every sense of the word…He was so nice and soft spoken and had no ego at all. Just a really likeable guy, it couldn’t help but put you in a good mood when you talked to him,” Geddes said, adding Ted’s ability to stay calm under pressure was a significant strength.
“He never got worked up. He was very good at staying calm. It can be very contagious under stressful situations when people are getting worked up to see the leader worked up, then things are just going to escalate, but Ted was very much a calming influence on everybody.”
As news of Ted’s passing spread across social media, posts began filling up with his community’s adoration of him, which Tracy said was every bit reciprocated.
“Ted loved everyone in Ucluelet. If you ever thought that maybe he didn’t, it was just because he was quiet. He didn’t have any animosity towards anyone. Things happen in a town and he never held a grudge or anything. That’s the biggest thing. He really did love it here and he loved everybody,” she said.
“He never ever spoke badly of anyone. He always was patient, he was a very deeply loving person, very gentle, very kind and very helpful. Really, it’s hard to believe that he’s not with us anymore because his life was cut short and this is hard.”
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