A Richmond man named Teddy Bear recently passed away and had a collection of more than 200 teddy bears donated to families in need overseas.
“He loved everything teddy bears. He changed his name to Teddy Bear – we don’t know what his original name was,” said Sandi Merke, a resident of Anavets Senior Housing in Steveston where Bear lived.
“He had tattoos of teddy bears, rings of teddy bears and clothes with teddy bears, and he had more than 200 stuffed teddy bears collected and displayed in his whole apartment.”
Merke described Bear as a character and a “very spiritual man,” who would walk around Steveston and regularly sunbathe – even in winter – down by the wharf with his dog Lila, and chat with people passing by.
“He looked like an old-time hippie. Everybody in Steveston knew him,” said Merke.
One day in October, Bear asked Merke if she could make sure his teddy bears went to people who would “love them as he does” after he passed away, and Merke agreed.
Later, Bear died before Christmas at age 74.
“I had made calls to local charities, but a lot of places won’t accept used toys, although they were displayed on shelves the whole time; it’s not that they were played with,” said Merke.
She finally found the Victoria-based organization Compassionate Warehouse which accepted the teddy bears and agreed to ship them overseas to families in Africa and Asia.
“I’m very happy. Those families will love his teddy bears and appreciate it,” said Merke.
Lucy Kent, a long-time friend of Bear who works in a pet store in Steveston, said she hopes the teddies will make it to those families’ homes and bring them as much joy and comfort as they did to Teddy.
“He didn’t have a very happy childhood. Because he was named Ted, I think he just made (teddy bears) like his family," said Kent.
"He didn’t really have a family, so they were like family to him," added Kent.
“After he passed away, so many people would stop and say, ‘oh we are going to miss him, he was such a wonderful man.’ I don’t think he even knew how many friends he had. He is definitely a Steveston icon.”