Community Papers

Richmond High toy drive founder calls it a career

Richmond High shop teacher Fred Dietrich, who 43 years ago founded the school
Richmond High shop teacher Fred Dietrich, who 43 years ago founded the school's annual Christmas Toy Drive, where students repair bikes and toys for less fortunate families, will be hanging up his gas-welding goggles for the last time next month.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel

Richmond High shop teacher Fred Dietrich will leave some big steel-toed shoes to fill, when the founder of the school's annual Christmas toy drive rides into the sunset after 43 years next month.

Thousands of people he's never met have benefitted from his community-minded spirit, as he enlisted his students to repair bikes and toys for less fortunate families when he first became a teacher at Richmond High.

Friends, former classmates and ex-students joined teaching colleagues at the school Friday afternoon for "Tailgate Time" where he exchanged hugs and handshakes with well wishers who chuckled over fond memories. Joining him at the retirement party were a group of his long-time friends with whom he graduated from Vancouver's Lord Byng secondary.

Dietrich said he never considered teaching as a career, but after leaving the navy at the age of 25, he was encouraged to bring his mechanical knowledge to the classroom as there was shortage of shop teachers.

At the time, he hadn't graduated from high school, and the offer allowed him to go to university, and eventually fill the vacant role as a shop teacher.

"I've been very fortunate," Dietrich said of the many stellar colleagues he's had at school. "It's been very good."

After initially teaching at Hugh McRoberts, Dietrich moved to Richmond High to become its shop teacher. He also served as the school's tennis coach.

His idea to start a student-powered toy drive came after he learned the local fire department, which had been repairing toys for local families, opted to stop that work upon finding out some of their charitable handiwork was simply being re-sold by others.

Armed with the school's large shop facility, Dietrich said to himself: "Why don't we do this instead."

Dietrich saw the initiative as a learning opportunity for his students, which at the same time benefitted the community.

Dietrich turns 70 next month, but has no plans to slow down in his retirement.

While he will enjoy the summer, he imagines he'll be doing a lot of cruising on his boat.

"It's just been a wonderful career," he said, one he'll surely miss.

Said Richmond High basketball legend Pasha Bains about Dietrich upon learning of his retirement via Twitter (@DRIVEBasketball): "Great man!"

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