The loss was all the more unexpected because, as his daughter Heather Exby told The Watch, Dickinson was “so alive. We didn’t see him as old. He was always excited about the next thing.”
Dickinson was a medical pioneer, a surgeon who came to small-town Montrose and, along with a handful of other doctors, including pathologist Dr. Thomas Canfield and internist Dr. Tom Chamberlain, formed the nucleus of superb health care at Montrose Memorial Hospital. Beyond medicine, Dickinson strove from the beginning of his time here to nurture and improve community. He was a 30-year Rotary Club stalwart. He helped establish the Montrose Community Fund and the Academic Booster Club. Even after retirement, he continued to recruit and educate new doctors and sat on the board of Rocky Mountain Health Plans. He wrote a regular newspaper column. He loved to ski and put together, Exby said, “a group of skiing docs” who volunteered with the Telluride Ski Patrol, to both improve medical care on the mountain and “get their skiing in.”
Preternaturally energetic and engaged, with a toothy smile and an ear for everyone, Dickinson was a mover in the group that started the community forums at Heidi’s Deli every Wednesday morning. “He would come home excited about what that week’s speaker had to say,” Exby said, “and then he and his friends would get excited again discussing who the next speaker and topic would be.”
Most recently, Dickinson started a group he called Civil Society to bring together in a social setting people with different perspectives, to “get people together to disagree but not be disagreeable,” said long-time friend Jim Austin.
He wanted people to focus on the issues that could improve a community rather than on the personalities that often seemed to divide it.
“He went way too soon,” said daughter Exby. “He had so much more to do.”
Dickinson grew up in Champaign and Evanston, Ill., where his father was a university professor. He got his M.D. at Washington University in St. Louis. “But he always wanted to live in the West,” Exby said. So he interned in British Columbia, where he met and married Tricia. They moved to Denver, where Ted became chief resident at the University of Colorado Medical Center.
Soon after came the move to Montrose, to what Exby calls “small-town America, where we [three children] grew up safe, happy, loved. Our father believed a small number of people could make a huge difference in a community. He really did care. He wanted things to work better, to work together.”
Typical of Dickinson’s positive encouragement was this letter he wrote to the Montrose Daily Press last December 18. “If you have not been downtown in the evening to see the Christmas decorations, please make time to see them. The lights are wonderful, and the storefronts are particularly attractive. The courthouse tree is magnificent. It is worth the trip. While you are out and about, try the new roundabout on Woodgate Road. It looks great and works even better. What a good solution to a chronic traffic problem. Well done. – TD”
Exby said that even though she knew her father had helped a great many people in the area, it is gratifying now to hear the stories. “Every time we turn around, we find another community he touched,” she said. She also volunteered, for the record and for the comfort of others, including Tricia, that when her mother found Ted, “he had a beautiful expression on his face.”
Ted Dickinson is survived by his wife, Tricia Dickinson, by daughters Heather (Allen) Exby of Grand Junction, Jennie (Don) Tidwell of Littleton, Colo., Karen (Larry) Waldon of Manitou Springs, Colo., and by a sister, Cherry Fields of Loveland, Colo.
A public memorial will be held Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1 p.m. at the Montrose Pavilion.
Contact Peter Shelton at email@example.com.