I last spoke to Wally about two weeks ago. He was working half-days at the University of Western Ontario (running their continuing education program for dentists) and then resting at home. He told me about the chemo and radiation treatment he was undergoing. He didn’t seem overly concerned. He was more concerned with getting back to work. At 81 years old, you’d think he’d just want to rest. But he wanted to beat that cancer again (come hell or high water). And he’d convinced everyone around him that he could do it. He had come back before and he would do it again. I believed him.
Indeed, during our phone conversation, he was convincing me to come to the Grand France River Cruise which UWO Faculty of Dentistry was organizing for next year. He’d been telling me about it for some time. But with a 3 year old, a wife, and a newborn, I told him that I’d likely have to pass. Jokingly, he asked: “Why not go without them? It’s only 2 weeks.” “Well, Wally, because when I get back home after those 2 weeks, it’s likely my wife will be waiting at the door with divorce papers!” We laughed.
He’d been countless times on that particular cruise. He raved about it. I think it was his favourite. He talked about the places we would go in France, the exquisite food and wine we would sample, the company we’d enjoy, and the new friends we’d meet. “I’ve got about 20 dentists registered so far, with likely another 10 coming”, he said. I congratulated him on his turn out and told him I had put it on my bucket list – to be achieved when my kids were a bit older. I did look forward to going with him in the future. I even talked to my wife about going (she’s all for it; just not with little children).
Dr. Walter Teteruck
Wally was a world class traveler for a long time. I can’t recall the exact number of times he’d been on cruises, or to Bermuda (likely over 20), but he was kind enough to arrange for David and I to present there last October at a UWO event. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend (the cancer had come back at that moment, making him very sick and unable to board the plane). I so wish he would have been able to come. I was selfish: I wanted to spend time getting to know more about this most interesting man.
Previously, whenever David and I would go to London to present to students or dentists or just drop in on clients, we would make time to lunch with Wally at his favourite restaurant: Shiki Japanese Restaurant. There, he introduced us to this addictive ginger sauce that is used as a salad dressing. I would joke and say that it was so good that I wanted them to hook it up intravenously to my arm so I could absorb it directly into my blood stream; and if they cut me, I would likely bleed ginger sauce! We all laughed.
During those lunches, Wally talked about how he used to race sports cars and sell cars at dealerships (before going into dentistry). That knowledge had empowered him to get his cars (e.g. Audi) at roughly cost because he knew the dealership’s numbers. He also talked about cooking, his kitchen renovations, places he’d traveled or would be traveling to (including Palm Springs, France and Bermuda), people he’d met, lives he’d lived. Like I said: “the most interesting man”.
I told Wally that David and I would visit him in August and September (for Homecoming). I would show him S.A.M. (he was very excited when I told him I was driving an all-electric car). In light of what he’d told me about his cancer and his travel plans, I told him that he lived such a rich life – a life which I (and others) would kill for. I said that I was personally more concerned with quality of life, not just quantity – and he had both. He didn’t think much of it. It was his normal, everyday life. In typical Wally fashion, he brushed it off: “I’m ready to get back to work” he said. He found purpose in his work. And he touched the lives of so many through his position at the faculty of dentistry.
I felt a great sense of relief to tell Wally how great a life he’d lived and how he had helped us when we were just starting out. He let us talk to the 4th year students countless times (including as part of their “Business of Dentistry” program). He gave us the opportunity to speak with dentists in continuing education courses. And I spoke with him every so often about new developments in the dental industry. I’m happy to have met him and spent quality time with him. I will miss him. He will not be forgotten. His legacy will live through his work, plus ours. We will celebrate his life and work as prime examples of what we should all strive for when it comes to success. He is my role model.
I attended his funeral (a “Celebration of Life”, as per his obituary) at St. George’s Anglican Church in London. His sister started off the mass by talking about Wally. It was only then that I realized how much of an open book he was: she talked about how he loved to cook, loved to teach/be an administrator, loved his family, loved Shiki restaurant, and loved fast cars. WOW! And to think I only knew him for a short time…
Farewell my friend. It was the highest pleasure meeting and spending time with you.