British Columbia

Family of Tri-Cities man who died of COVID-19 says he was born a fighter, had '9 lives'

Tad Fetterly, who passed away at 78, was among six residents at Port Coquitlam's Nicola Lodge who died following a coronavirus outbreak.

Tad Fetterly passed away at 78. He was a resident at Nicola Lodge in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Tad Fetterly was born Aug. 8, 1942 and passed away on Jan. 16, 2021. (Submitted by Carlene Fetterly)

Tad Fetterly was known for defying the odds. In fact, the moment he was born, doctors didn't even give him a chance.

"My grandmother was told he was a stillborn, and the doctor apparently put him aside on the oven door, and a few hours later, he cried," said Fetterly's eldest daughter, Carlene.

Three months later, he endured life-saving surgery for pyloric stenosis, a rare condition in babies that stops food from entering the small intestine.

Fetterly may have been quiet and frail at birth, but he was loud and proud throughout the rest of his life. Among Fetterly's beloved qualities were his infectious laugh, his tall frame topped with curly hair, and his unbridled determination.

The 78-year-old, known for his love of card games and volunteer work, was diagnosed with COVID-19 inside the Nicola Lodge in Port Coquitlam. He died on January 16. He's one of six people from the long-term care centre who have died from COVID-19.

Fetterly was known as a jokester with a loud and unique laugh, according to friends and family. He took up art when he retired. (Submitted by Carlene Fetterly)

"My dad was a fighter," said Carlene Fetterly, 50. "And even with COVID, we had our ups and downs — one day he was doing well, and the next day he was not doing well.

"I was really lucky to have him as a dad. Not everyone gets that lucky," she said.

A troublemaker with '9 lives'

Fetterly was born inside his family's Saskatchewan home in 1942. He shared a bed with his brother, and was known to wiggle around in his sleep, which earned him the nickname Tadpole.

The name stuck with him for the rest of his life — a shortened version becoming his preference over his given name, Gaylen. 

"He does not go by Gaylen, he does like Edwin [his middle name]. He liked Tad."

One of five kids, Fetterly was known for getting into trouble, which often led to bumps and bruises, his daughter said. 

"He had nine lives — there was one time he got hit in the side of the head with a rock inside dirt ... he got it right in the temple and was in bed for a week," said Carlene Fetterly.

Tad Fetterly and his wife, Berdie, were married for 52 years. (Submitted by Carlene Fetterly)

"The best part of that for him, though, was that his uncle Smoky bought him a six-pack of Coke, because back then it was a big deal ... my grandma grew out of the Depression, and they didn't have that much," she said.

He accepted generosity and paid it forward throughout his life.

Family man

Fetterly met his wife, Berdie, while attending art school in Calgary. The pair married and moved to B.C., raising their three kids in the Tri-Cities area. He started a career making print signs, which has since grown into a successful family business.

But his real passion was his family.

"He was there for everything," said Carlene Fetterly. "He never played soccer in his life, but he coached me — and he did a wonderful job."

Carlene Fetterly said her father would always make time to play with his kids, nieces and nephews. She says he always believed in everyone, encouraging them to pursue their dreams and passions. (Carlene Fetterly)

On Halloween, he'd carve 3D pumpkins — long before it was trendy. He encouraged kids to follow their passions, his love of art was among the many traits that rubbed off on them.

"I took art [in Grade 8], I really wanted to take it — did not like the teacher," said Carlene Fetterly. "I came home at the end of Grade 8 saying, 'Dad, I really don't want to take Art 9,' and he was absolutely adamant that I continue in arts, so I signed back up for it."

Tad Fetterly sits next to his eldest daughter, Carlene. He was a care resident at the Nicola Lodge in Port Coquitlam during his final years. (Submitted by Carlene Fetterly)

"He went to the parent-teacher night, and he came back home and said I don't have to do art anymore," she said, laughing. "It was nice because he listened to me."

Volunteer work

In his later years, Fetterly took up art and spent much of his time painting and playing cards, with a particular love for bridge. He also volunteered in campaigns for Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, who remembers Fetterly fondly.

"Nobody could out-laugh Tad," said Stewart. "A great community is made of great people, like Tad Fetterly."

Fetterly spent his last four years at the Nicola Lodge care home in Port Coquitlam. He moved in after taking a fall during a Super Bowl party.

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the facility in mid-December. 

Tad Fetterly, pictured here with his family, passed away at 78 after contracting COVID-19. (Submitted by Carlene Fetterly)

"For him to be by himself in the hospital, that was hard — that was really hard."

Fetterly is survived by his wife, Berdie; his brothers and sisters, Marilyn, Cheryl, Cheyanne and Cim; his daughters Carlene and Mary, and son Chris; and his grandchildren, Alyssa, Andreas, Isabella, Jonathan and Tesla. 

"He just had a spirit about him that was very lovely, and it's going to be missed."


  • An earlier version of this story said Nicola Lodge was in Port Moody. In fact, it is in Port Coquitlam.
    Feb 23, 2021 12:32 PM PT


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