February 26, 1931 – August 15, 2020
An iconic black and white photograph hangs in the lobby of Ridge Meadows Hospital. Nine nattily dressed men in fedoras and long overcoats, as was the fashion in 1958, stand in front of the brand new hospital. Ted stands third from the end, wearing his well known black horn rimmed spectacles, with his trademark blonde crewcut concealed by the hat.
You can’t see the ever present cigar, but no doubt it was there. The hospital was considered state of the art at the time and represented an intense campaign led by the 9 doctors present to extract the government funding necessary to build it.
Dr Ted Thordarson was a pioneering family doctor in Maple Ridge. He graduated from UBC’s third medical class in 1956 and interned at Royal Columbian Hospital. He and Maxine Munro married in 1956 and moved to the small community of Haney (now Maple Ridge) where Ted and his father built the family home they lived in until Ted retired.
Many happy family events took place in that house, where Christmas Eve dinners and pool parties were annual occurrences.
Ted was born in Selkirk, Manitoba to Theodor and Sigridur Thordarson who emigrated from Iceland as children. Ted is predeceased by his parents, and by his three sisters Lara Thordarson, Frieda Henderson, and Helga Christopher.
He is survived by his younger brother Dr Roy Thordarson, and Maxine, his devoted wife of 64 years. He cherished his three children, Ted Jr, Helga, and David (Arleen) Thordarson, as well as much loved grandchildren Emily Thordarson, Gabriel and Bridget Langmead, and a large extended family.
Central to family life was the extended family cottage on Okanagan Lake, built with great foresight by Ted and his four siblings in 1959, and much enjoyed to this day by the expanding family group. He and Maxine purchased a neighbouring property in retirement and spent every summer there until failing health made it impossible in recent years.
Ted received his early schooling in Selkirk where the siblings shouldered a great deal of responsibility for each other as their father, a fisherman, was out on Lake Winnipeg for weeks at a time and their mother often went along to look after the men at the fish camps, leaving younger children in the hands of their older sisters.
Even in the hard times of the Depression, the children were taught to prize learning and all of them went on to higher education.
When Ted was 17 the fishing on Lake Winnipeg failed and the family decided to move out to Vancouver where fellow Icelanders were fishing salmon on the Fraser.
Ted had gained his drivers’ licence a few months before, and as the only driver in the family he had the responsibility of driving his parents and remaining two siblings from Selkirk to Vancouver in his old car. Highways were not what they are now and it was a many day trip, they even encountered a blizzard in North Dakota as remembered by brother Roy, but Ted got them there and they purchased a house on West 64th Street which was the family gathering point until Ted’s parents’ deaths.
After arriving in Maple Ridge Ted quickly developed a large full service practice with two partners. His early years were extremely busy as he and Maxine also welcomed their 3 children between 1958 and 1963. In 1974 the practice expanded to include 4 more partners at which point they developed an innovative practice model which shared workload equally and ensured time off for family and education — making them early adopters of the work life balance model popular today.
Ted served the community in many roles over the years. He became politically active (and loved to debate his views) supporting people campaigning for office municipally and federally.
He sat on the School Board and the Hospital Board, acting as Chief of Staff a number of times. He was medical director of the Summer Games in 1986. His former partners remember him as a mentor to younger doctors and his many patients were fiercely loyal.
His staff remembers his truly execrable handwriting and he was notorious for his ever present cigar. One former partner remembers that he could always tell if Ted was in a patient’s room at the hospital by the cigar left smouldering on the railing outside the door. Different times…
Ted was always a hard worker and did well at whatever he put his energy to. At one point he decided to buy the Kidd Howe farm in Pitt Meadows where he grew Christmas trees at first, then was one of the first to diversify into blueberries.
The idea was to provide jobs for the school age children, first selling Christmas trees and later blueberries, and also a pretext for driving around town in a beat up farm truck full of barking dogs. He then embarked on property development, and was intrigued throughout his life by entrepreneurial opportunities.
Boats and fishing were in Ted’s blood and soon after arrival in Vancouver, he purchased a gillnetter fishing boat and began fishing the Fraser every summer. The income paid for his university education including medical school, and financed a better car which was the first of a long line of ever more elaborate cars, the bigger the better.
The love affair with boats continued as he and his dad built a sail boat for the cottage, after which he purchased a speed boat which gave the kids of the clan many happy hours water skiing, with Ted patiently taking round after round of the lake with an excited child in tow.
He and brother Roy purchased a much larger sail boat, the Solskin, in 1974 and sailed the coast for many years. A once in a lifetime experience for Ted and Roy was circumnavigating Iceland in 2008 in a large sailing ship.
Ted and Maxine had many enjoyable trips together. They spent summers at their cottage until their declining health didn’t permit travel. Ted’s health failed in his last 10 years, but he continued his interest in current events especially of a political nature, and his enjoyment of visits from family and friends until recently.
Ted and Maxine were well cared for at home by their compassionate caregivers Grace, Judy, Barbara, Brenda, Rose, Maureen, Lorie and Betty whose care enabled them to remain at home until they moved to Bailie House for the last few years.
The family wishes to especially thank these caring women, and the entire staff of Baillie House for their sensitivity and kindness in his last years. Also thanks to Drs Neufeld, Wong, and Milewski.
Ted was a larger than life figure, who left his special mark on all those with whom he came in contact, especially family, friends, colleagues, patients, and members of the community of Maple Ridge. He will be remembered with great affection and very much missed by his family and many others who were fortunate to have known him.
A small service for family will be held by invitation only due to Covid restrictions on October 3 at Garden Hill Funeral Chapel. For those who would like to view the service, a video will be available on their website later. In lieu of flowers, Ted would have appreciated a donation in his name to the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation or to a charity of your choice.
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