He was gruff, but kind.
A straightforward, no-nonsense type of of guy, but always fair and polite, always willing to go out of his way to help. Perhaps a little curmudgeonly, but sure to greet every customer with a respectful, “will that be everything, dear?” or, for the men, “will that be everything, boss?”
You could always count on him to pick out his version of the winning lottery ticket, and, once in a blue moon, a well-timed joke could even get him to crack a smile.
These are just some of the memories being shared about Ted Dery, or as he’s better known around Whistler, Ted from the Husky. Dery, a longtime fixture behind the Creekside gas station’s counter, passed away last month at the age of 80.
The news rippled across town, through word of mouth and a local social media group. Posts garnered hundreds of likes, and nearly as many comments. Most were sparked by disbelief and disappointment, while others fondly remembered instances like the time he loaned a $20 bill for gas.
Dery gradually built this reputation for himself while manning the register, often overnight or during holidays, since Husky owner and manager Sultan Rupani hired him 15 years ago.
To that end, Rupani said he was not surprised in the least to see the outpouring of condolences and fond memories following Dery’s passing.
“I was expecting that,” Rupani said. “I worked with him for many nights, too, especially on the holidays and days like that. Everybody would come around and take pictures with him, and everybody would say ‘I love you Ted,’ He was a very nice person, and had a very good relationship with the customers.”
At one point, years ago, a Facebook page was even created by some Husky customers, detailing the particularly memorable encounters with Dery, though its now buried within the depths of the internet.
“Some of them are just hilarious. I think he’s known for — I don’t want to say being grumpy, because he’s not grumpy, he’s incredibly sweet — but he was really tough, but fair,” said long-time Husky customer and Whistler resident Mandy Bowes. “If you’re drunk and you’re being an idiot at Husky, he’s going to put you in your place pretty quick.”
Bowes grew fond of Dery over the past decade of chatting throughout their transactions, even bringing him Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter dinners when he was working over the holidays.
“I always had the joke with him that when I won the lottery, he was going to be my pool boy,” Bowes said with a laugh. “I always would just buy my lottery tickets from him, and he’d always knock on the counter and wish me luck. He was pretty comical, once you got him to break out of his shell.”
But as beloved as he was within the community, no one knew much about Dery beyond those short but frequent interactions.
Originally from Alberta, Dery, an army veteran, was brought up in Surrey, before eventually relocating to Squamish, Rupani said. He had children, though they don’t live in the area.
Although customers may have admired Dery’s service style, that’s not where his list of employable, and irreplaceable, attributes ended. His military background could be attributed with fostering his “perfectionist” spirit, Rupani said.
“He was the best employee. He was always punctual, always there,” he said, adding that most shifts, Dery would come in about and hour or two early.
He exemplified “honesty, integrity and good ethics of working,” Rupani said. “We cannot find anyone with those qualities, 100 per cent of them. I’m sure we can find somebody who has 80, 90, 95 or even 98 per cent, but 100 per cent of the time? It’s very rare.”
But despite his relentless work ethic, Dery’s health was declining. Around three years ago, Dery spent about a week in the intensive care unit at Vancouver General Hospital due to weakening heart muscles, following which, Rupani said, he took only a one week rest at home before returning to work.
Even last month, “he worked until the very end,” Rupani said. Dery’s last day at the Husky was one week before he passed.
Though Dery was supposed to continue taking medications for the rest of his life, he stopped taking his prescriptions a year ago.
“He had a stroke and it was downhill from there,” Rupani said.
Rupani visited Dery at the Lionsgate Hospital until 9:30 p.m. the night before he passed away on Nov. 18.
“Whenever he had doctor’s appointments or surgeries scheduled, I had to take him to the surgeries, pick him up at home, drop him at home,” Rupani said. “He was one of my best guys.”
The community is invited to come together for a celebration of life for Dery at Roland’s on Sunday (Dec. 17) between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.