Theodore W. Spaetgens

Theodore W. Spaetgens, P. Eng – Ted passed away peacefully January 13. Predeceased by his wife Eleanor (Hamilton) in 2014, the mother of his children, Odette (Herbert) in 1997 and brother Harold in 1975.

He is survived by his sister Margaret (age 103), his children, Vic (Maureen), Greg (Donata), Connie (Jim), Bill, nieces, nephews, many grand-children, and cousins across Canada, Germany, Austria and the USA. He was born in Humboldt, Saskatchewan to Theodore and Sophia.

From an early age he loved making things like airplane models to sit in and designing devices like a shock absorber for his bike when he was 12. A barnstormer act that visited Humboldt in the 1920s was probably what started his interest in aircraft. His father, a steam locomotive engineer for CN Railway, would take Ted to the huge roundhouse where 15 large locomotives would be serviced. He would ride in the cabs of these steam-belching beasts. The world of fireboxes, levers, gauges was fascinating but the valve/gears and the intricacy, precision and the motion of how it transferred steam to the wheels captivated him.

This bode well as he studied mechanical engineering at U. of Manitoba then on to UBC graduating in 1943. He was encouraged to remain in university during the war years and get his degree. He loved Vancouver and the mountains, quite a departure from the prairies.

Ted played violin in the school’s orchestra. When UBC required a shop course he refused in case it damaged his large but nimble hands. Classical music was to be a life long passion and he often frequented the VSO, many times with grumpy kids in tow. Retelling the story over the years with a wince and a smile of the time at UBC he rolled a beer keg into the midst of an Aggie (Agriculture Faculty) card game, scattering everyone. After graduation he joined Boeing and worked on the Catalina Flying Boat (PBY) program. In 1945 Ted worked for Vivien Engines in Vancouver where he became intimate with the workings of internal combustion engines and totally immersed himself in the study of engine systems. He took this engineering knowledge and developed complicated theories for resolving torsional vibration problems and associated engine strain.

He wrote his thesis, “Stress on Cylinder Head Studs”, and earned his Professional Engineer status in 1947. Ted was the first engineer in Canada (and one of only a handful in the world at the time) to specialize in this field. In 1949, he developed a break-through mathematical methodology and wrote several papers which at that time were revolutionary in his field. Ted was one of the industry’s experts in resolving crankshaft, gearbox and propeller shaft failures that had plagued the marine industry for many years and would continue for years to come. This method became a standard engineering tool. In 1956, he founded Lo-Rez Vibration Control Ltd., and developed, patented and manufactured his own product line with an international clientele, primarily for marine applications like the US Navy, Canadian Coast Guard, BC Ferries, tugboats, super yachts and heavy sea vessels and the oil and gas sector. Ted worked well into his 80’s and loved every minute of it.

His work was his passion and priority, an obsession you might say. Perhaps that is why he accomplished what he did in the engineering field. In 2004 Ted was recognized for his outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the engineering community over his career and received the Meritorious Achievement Award from the BC Association of Professional Engineers.

He enjoyed long summer and winter working holidays at his vacation log home at 108 Mile Ranch in the Cariboo. He was very active with his tennis, x-country skiing and snowmobiling. He had three snowmobiles that took out family and neighbours over the years into the surrounding hills and mountains. When the house sold a few years ago the 1970 era mint-condition machines were bought by the same man who Ted gave his first ride to 30 years prior. Other vacations were in Maui with the family and driving through the BC Interior. Ted obtained his single engine private pilot’s license in 1970 and flew for many years and always strived for that perfect landing. 

In 2016 Ted required more care and fortunately ended up at Crofton Manor in Vancouver where his health improved and no longer required medication. The family would like to thank all the staff for their dedication to the residents well-being and especially those that Ted had direct interaction with like the nurses and care-aids. Their compassion and attention to Ted’s needs truly made his last two years very special. 

Odette’s ashes were interred and arrangements were made that Ted’s ashes would be beside her. It was however Odette’s wishes that her ashes be scattered up at 108. We think it time Odette’s ashes were removed and along with Ted’s, finally follow those wishes and scatter them both together at 108 where the people and location made it a memorable part of their lives and a fitting end for them both. Ted would like that.

An informal gathering was held on January 24th in Burnaby, BC.

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