My Dad passed on in July 2019. Below are the words I shared at his celebration of life.
I feel like I am supposed to give you a biography of my Dad. To tell you all about his life and times growing up. But the truth is I don’t know too much. He wasn’t much of a talker in that way. Sure, we all know him as a great storyteller but he was never one to sit and answer questions about his life, and usually, his stories that he did share were full of fun and humour or sharing about someone’s recent achievements or the latest project he helped someone with. Glen, Dave, Bill, and Barry have all given you a great idea of who my Dad was from their unique perspectives and experiences with him so I’m just going to give you mine, with some facts that I do know, thrown in.
Dennis Robert Pringle was Born on August 26, 1945, at 3:00 pm in the afternoon, weighing in at 7lbs, 7ozs. A second son for Malcolm and Hazel, and a little brother and built-in best friend for Gary. I like to imagine what that day must have been like; the day that Dad entered the world; to experience the shift his presence created. The world became a place filled with more love than measurable and a whole lot of stubborn opinions.
He later became a big brother himself, first to Carolyn and then to Tracy.
According to a baby book kept by my Grandmother Hazel, Dad “was a very good baby and never kept Mommy and Daddy awake at night. His fussy time was afternoons when he was very little.” He had very little hair until he was about one year old and didn’t walk until he was 17 months old because he found that crawling was a faster and more direct way of getting things done. Little did my Grandmother know that this was just a precursor to how Dad would take on life.
Dad was raised in Vancouver and spent summer holidays in Boundary Bay. He loved model trains and learning all about electrical, carpentry and other trades in high school. As a young adult, he’d spend many weekends living it at pubs in Point Roberts and simply enjoying life with his friends. And at all ages, he was a getter’ done kind of guy with a strong work ethic and a gift for helping others.
Christmas 1968 Dad met the love of his life. He knew within moments of meeting Maureen Ann Wakely that she would be the one. Even Dad’s friends knew that she would be the girl he would marry. Dad was so taken with her that this very weekend, 50 years ago, Dad cut short a trip away with his friends because he missed Maureen too much. Just as the first men were landing on the moon on July 20th, 1969, Dad came walking up the path to Mom’s family’s home to surprise her.
While it took mom a little longer to give her heart away, ultimately it was Dad’s kind heart, that won her over. His willingness to help others in their need and the genuine way Dad cared for her and the people she loved was unmatched by anyone else she’d ever met. Though different in many ways, they have been a perfect match and tomorrow Mom and Dad would have celebrated 47 years married. And what a beautiful life is had been.
In Dad’s own words, taken from a speech he wrote for my mom’s retirement:
We started out building our hobby farm in Langley on 2 ½ acres. During that time we raised 3 children, 1 dairy cow, 5 day-old calves, horses and baby fouls, pigs, wiener pigs, chickens, goats and sheep, a beef cow, and her 2 calves. One time, we had a vet on our farm and he noticed that even Maureen was pregnant so we nicknamed our farm, “Pregnancy Acres’.
Dad and Mom embarked on many adventures together in life. From building the hobby farm in Willoughby to building the house in Murrayville. From family road trips to Disneyland and Tofino to the infamous family vacation aboard a houseboat on the Shuswap with Johnny and Jeannie, when Dad shaved his mustache and all the parents kicked all the kids off the boat in the middle of a rainstorm just so they could have “a moment of peace!”
Together they collected countless friends along the way, adding to the growing community of people they loved and enjoyed life with. They won a horseshoe throwing contest at The Kelly’s annual tournament and purchased a cabin in Point Roberts – a little bedroom community where they both spent time as children and young adults and worked hard to give Matthew, Marshall, and me the opportunities and experiences they had as children, and even more.
Their adventures of married life continued and included buying their first motorhome and dreaming only of retirement to actually retiring, selling their home, and embarking on one last great adventure together: motorhome-living and traveling the world. Between Dad’s dream of traveling throughout North America in a giant motorhome and their involvement with the Friendship Force, Mom and Dad embraced many opportunities to travel and see new places and expand their community of friends across the globe.
Mom and Dad’s relationship was real, it was human (aka not perfect) and it was inspiring to witness especially this past year. The way Mom loved and served Dad through to the end is how we should all strive to love and serve our partners. Selflessly and without hesitation.
One evening, just a few days before Dad passed away, he was laying in bed facing towards me and asked where mom was. “Here I am Den” mom replied. “I want to see you,” he said. Mom got up and sat in the chair next to Dad, took his hand in her’s, wiped his forehead with a damp cloth, and with tears in her eyes, thanked Dad for giving her such a beautiful life. Dad replied with a smile, “It was a good life, wasn’t it.”
As a Father, Dad was one of the best. He wasn’t perfect, no Father is, but he did the best he knew how to, and Matthew, Marshall, and I were his three most important priorities. He filled our lives with color, and a love for animals, taught us the importance of hard work, woke us up every Saturday morning with some of the worst music ever produced, and made a point of always being one of our loudest cheerleaders – especially while standing on the sidelines of Matthew and Marshall’s sports games.
Dad always wanted to be a part of what we were doing and one of his greatest joys as a Father was to see us settled in our adult lives and to help us achieve our goals. He felt so lucky to have health and energy in his retirement to help us establish our homes and to help us with all the different projects we wanted to take on.
I am sure many of you know that I wouldn’t even have my house if it wasn’t for my Dad. On their North American motorhome adventure, Mom and Dad came to visit me in St. Andrews. During their first visit to my apartment – an attic turned bachelor suite in an 18th century home, Dad walked up the stairs on the side of the house and the first words out of his mouth as he walked through the door were, “Aren’t you afraid those stairs will fall off the side of the house one day?”
The very next day and without telling me or Mom, Dad rode his bike into town and stopped in at each real estate office until he found someone willing to help him. He said, “I want to help my daughter buy a house and it needs to be virtually maintenance-free because I won’t be nearby to help her when problems come up.”
Two weeks and a whole bunch of house viewings later, mom told me what Dad had been up to and that he had narrowed the options down to three potential houses they wanted me to look at.
Dad was not always able to articulate his pride or affection for us kids, but his actions spoke so loudly, and both Matthew and Marshall have their own stories and experiences with Dad helping them with their houses and doing whatever he could to see that they were happy, settled and loved just as he did for me in St. Andrews.
And of course, the boys and I know now that all those years, when he couldn’t say it to us personally, he was sharing with all of you about just how much he loved us, adored us, and was proud of us.
And the affection he had for us was something he wanted for others too.
Looking around this room, I see so many of my cousins and childhood friends who have been influenced and inspired by my Dad. To you, he was more than a boss, an uncle, or your friend’s Dad. To some of you, he was a Father figure, to others he was a mentor or coach, or just a really great guy you admired. He was someone you looked to for guidance on how to be a man, a husband, a father, a hard worker and a friend. And he showed that you deserved to be loved and valued with respect and kindness.
If my Dad was here and could get the words out, he would want you to know that that he cherished your relationship, he loved you and wanted nothing more than to see you happy, settled and content in life.
And, Matthew, Marshall and I were happy to share our Dad with you.
Dad had many names, roles, and titles over the years. Dennis, Den, Son, Brother, Husband, Dad, Uncle Denny, Uncle D, Coach, Pops, Popsicle, Mr. Wilson, Dennis the Menace, Grumpy Old Man, Mentor, Curmudgeon, and a Father-in-law… But the one he loved the most recently was Grandpa.
When Maxwell and George came along, Dad lit up and embraced his new role with every ounce of love, excitement, and pride. Matthew, Marshall, and I were reminded of the playfulness we experienced as children. His duck noises, his “got your nose” trick, his love of trains, and his teaching us things. But we also witnessed a new side of Dad. As a Grandpa he had more time and patience to sit with the boys and read to them and take them to museums and exhibits than being a young parent with a long to-do list never afforded him. Even as his health declined and he succumbed to the effects of his cancer and treatments Dad would muster the energy to play air hockey with George or sit with Maxwell while he practiced his reading.
One of the greatest gifts Dad received in his final days was when Max and George visited him in the hospital and Max read a Harry Potter book to Dad while George held his hand. I think perhaps the only regret Dad passed with was not making it through long enough to meet Matthew and Megan’s baby.
Anyone who has ever worked with Dad spent a day doing chores with him, or participated in a work weekend at the cabin in Point Roberts is familiar with Dad’s affinity for making lists. It’s actually one of my favorite things about my Dad and a habit of his that both Marshall and I have. Dad’s lists were everything and he filled many notebooks over the years, including ones that he made from scrap paper. He even had me take down a to-do list of things while he was in the hospital those last two weeks. Which reminds me—Matthew, Marshall, Adam, Darren…
The Wiper blades on Motorhome need to change. You can get these at Lordco.
The driver-side awning on the motorhome needs to be fixed.
The TV in the bedroom needs to be replaced.
The fireplace at the cabin needs some insulation around the hearth.
The Septic tank at the cabin needs to be pumped and the tank cover replaced.
Ever the practical one making sure things happen.
Dad will always be remembered as a great friend to all and a champion of kindness.
He had a unique gift of making friends wherever he went. In each neighborhood our family lived, the sports activities us kids were involved in, the shops that he managed, the interest groups he and mom were a part of, or the RV parks where they parked the motorhome, Dad was quick to create a community of friends. He often garnered a reputation as a wise-cracking curmudgeon with a heart of pure gold who was willing to jump in whenever he saw a need. Even as he faced illness and the effects of his treatments, he still sought ways to perform acts of service for those he loved.
Dad lived and loved without apology and hesitation. He was guided by a genuine concern for the well-being of others and never let the fear of imposition prevent him from offering a helping hand to his family and friends or striking up conversations with strangers.
This is one of the things I’ve grown to love most about Dad. He never let other people’s perspectives of him and his ways of doing things prevent him from loving others the best way he knew how. And I think this is a great lesson that we can all learn from Dad’s life.
Dad was a man of few words unless he was telling a joke or trying to get a rise out of someone, but through his practical acts of service, he showed his family, friends, and neighbors how much love, respect, and acceptance he had for them.
Yup, if he ever offered to help you throw stuff out, to organize your garage, to chainsaw some overgrown trees or shrubs, wrote you out a to-do list and helped you check things off, or take a load of something to the dump, this was his way very practical, direct way of telling you he loved you, you are important to him and he cares about you.
His greatest hope for others was that they were happy and settled in their lives; to see that their needs were meant, that their goals were being pursued, and that their relationships were secure.
And based on the number of people who funneled through Dad’s hospital room as he endured his final journey with cancer, the number of people who are here today, and the countless messages that our family has received since his passing, Dad’s way of loving others and spreading kindness was magic to us all. Each one of you is a testament to how Dad lived, how he loved, and how each of you was influenced, shaped, and formed by his friendship.
But, please know that each one of you also influenced, shaped, and formed Dad. You were so important to him, you filled his life with the same colour and fun he gave to Mom, Matthew, Marshall, and me. And when he died, it was with a big, big heart because he had a piece of you tucked inside.
And, the further blessing of Dad’s unique gift of making friends wherever he went is that Mom, Matt, Marshall and I have will a vast community of people who can reflect back to us the love that he gave you and help us to keep his memory alive as we grieve and begin life with a new normal.
It is surreal that Dad is no longer physically present with us. We will no longer hear his voice, see his smile, hear his laughter, receive his text messages, eat his pancakes, share his bowl of popcorn, go to Kiniskis for drinks together, or talk about the weather report. He’ll no longer be there to boss us around, share his opinion, clean out our garages, help us with our gardens, chop our firewood, create and complete projects around our homes. He is gone. Cancer has taken him away.
But the blessing of Dad’s passing is that he did not have to suffer the loss of too many people he loved. His heart could not handle that kind of heartbreak. But of those that did pass ahead of him, I am certain they were waiting for him with arms wide open, ready to show him where to find the popcorn, the ice cream, and the workshop. Those most eager to welcome him would have been his parents, his big brother Gary and little sister Carolyn, and his greatest childhood friend George.
In his final days with us, Dad mentioned wanting to write a goodbye speech but he was already too tired to draw the words. I imagine though, if he had been able to articulate his thoughts, his speech would have been full of humour and sarcasm but finished off with tear-provoking gratitude for a life well-lived.
Or perhaps, in the most personal and Dennis way possible, he would have simply sent a text to say, “Goodnight people, I’m going home now.”