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Thousands remember Ted Lorenz

With family looking on, Richmond Fire-Rescue chief John McGowan and colleagues perform the Last Bell Ceremony at the Celebration of Life for Ted Lorenz Saturday at the Steveston Community Centre.  - Don Fennell photo
With family looking on, Richmond Fire-Rescue chief John McGowan and colleagues perform the Last Bell Ceremony at the Celebration of Life for Ted Lorenz Saturday at the Steveston Community Centre.
— image credit: Don Fennell photo

At the conclusion of the classic 1946 fantasy It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey’s daughter Zulu looks up at him excitedly and says “Look Daddy, teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”

It’s then that George realizes that he truly has a wonderful life.

The bell rang for Ted Lorenz on Saturday, as family, friends and a grateful community celebrated the life of a Richmond legend at a moving gathering attended by close to a thousand people who packed the indoor tennis facility at the Steveston Community Centre he was instrumental in constructing.

Master of ceremonies and longtime friend Kelvin Higo was among those who regaled the audience with stories of Lorenz’s more than 60 years of volunteer service and his dedication to his family and the community.

Lorenz passed away Feb. 20 after complications following a double bypass heart surgery a few months ago.

“When you look up the definition of volunteer in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Ted Lorenz,” said Higo.

“The epitome of volunteerism is when you put your money where your mouth is. Ted and three others did just that when they were willing to sign a $15,000 mortgage to complete the Martial Arts Centre in 1970. Ted Lorenz thought the lasting tribute of the Steveston Community Society has been its ability to go out into the community and have residents feel ownership in their community and participate in the many activities sponsored by the board.”

A Steveston volunteer firefighter at age of 18, and Richmond fire chief from 1979 until retiring in 1993, Lorenz was all about community. He saw it as a way of life.

Inheriting a philosophy of Richmond pioneer and former school board trustee and city councillor Bob McMath, Lorenz believed and promoted the idea that if community was able to raise a third of funds needed for a project, municipal government should be able to match that with the final third coming from senior government. That was the approach taken on every project he was involved with, said Higo.

“When you walk around Steveston you’ll see Ted’s handprints on quite a few projects,” said Higo.

Dave Semple spoke from the heart when he described his friend of 40-plus years as a “genius.”

“Ted player a major role in guiding me and understanding what community is, about how to make commitments and follow through,” said Semple.

“He showed me through his own actions to always listen and admit when your first decision is not the right one and take a different approach. But it was after the meetings when I really learned about community.”

Retired firefighter Loren Slye, hired by Lorenz in the 1970s, recalled his mentor telling him when he started at Richmond Fire-Rescue that he was really being paid by the community and that he owed it to the community to give back. It was a message Slye took to heart.

Lorenz’s son, Ted Jr., said his dad believed people who are part of a team and share a common direction reach their goal “because they are traveling in the trust of one another. “

Explaining why geese fly in a “V” shape as an analogy for teamwork, Ted Jr. said whenever a goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back in line to take advantage of the power of the flock.

If people have as much sense as the goose we will share information and workload of those headed the same way we are going.

Also, when the lead goose gets tired, it rotates to the wing and another goose takes its pace.

“Dad believed it pays to share vision and together we make the difference,” he said. “He would be the first goose in the flock to say he was just doing his duty when it was his turn. If we could all be as dedicated when it is our turn to lead we’ll all be better for it.”

Born in Saskatchewan, Lorenz grew up in Steveston, where he attended Lord Byng Elementary, before graduating from Richmond High.  In high school he excelled in baseball, basketball, track and field. He was also an avid curler, golfer and skier.

He he rose up the ranks of Richmond Fire-Rescue to fire chief in 1979. He also served as president of the B.C. Fire Chief’s Association and was honoured with the keys to the city by then Richmond mayor Greg Halsey-Brandt upon retiring in 1993.

Lorenz joined the Steveston Community Society at the age of 14, beginning a lifelong association with the society and the Steveston Salmon Festival. He later became president of the society.

After retiring from Richmond Fire-Rescue,  Lorenz remained a busy volunteer in the community. He was appointed to the Britannia Heritage Shipyard Society as a trustee and introduced the idea for the building of the first senior citizen’s housing complex off No 1 Road and Chatham Street.

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