An institution can be a place, like Northern Hardware, and an institution can be a person, like Ted Moffat.
The third generation owner of The Northern was active in the business personality of the city and the social fabric of the community, and like his father Harold (a former Prince George mayor), he was frequently at the store despite official retirement and succession plans in motion.
Moffat, 73, succumbed to cancer on Tuesday morning. The first public statement in his honour came from the floor of the Legislature. Prince George MLA Shirley Bond delivered the news to the province, calling Moffat a "pillar of our community" and his passing being "an enormous loss" for the northern region. Bond said Moffat was "always willing to help with local initiatives, many of them aimed at improving our downtown. He will be deeply missed by his wife, Gloria; his son, Dan; his daughter, Kelly; and a very large and extended family."
Much of that family, and friends who were as close as kin, either worked at The Northern or spent a lot of time there. The 93-year-old business has been a mainstay of the northern economy, and Moffat steered it from the simpler times that ended after the Second World War into the 21st century.
"He was a great blend of the old and the new, in the way he did business," said fellow entrepreneur Rod Holmes, president of the Downtown Business Improvement Association that Moffat was also heavily involved with over the years. Holmes said he grew up with the Moffat's literally next door. His back yard was once part of the Moffat family garden on Moffat Street next to the iconic Moffat House, now an historic home in the city.
"I'd be up in The Northern on business, or to visit other people and he'd always seem to be there, and it was so easy to talk with him," Holmes said. "He'd always want to chat, and he was the kind of easygoing person that half an hour would fly by and you wouldn't even notice. Any dealings were good ones and he was a heck of a nice guy. I know when people pass away, people tend to find nicer things to say, but in Ted's case there is nothing else you can say. No one really had anything negative to say about him."
One of his best friends, Brian Brownridge, agreed.
"I lost a great friend today. Ted was the finest gentleman I know," Brownridge said. "He had all the right qualities: a tremendous family man and a tremendous community leader. I don't think the general public has a clue as to what all he did for this community. He did most of it under the radar, never wanted the pat on the back, but he accomplished more for the community than we will ever know."
Friends talked glowingly of Moffat's heavy involvement in the business associations of the city, Knox United Church, the Old Time Fiddlers, the Forest Alliance of B.C., the B.C. Rail board of directors, Theatre North West, and many more.
"Sad to hear today of the passing of Ted Moffat," said local forestry professional Dwight Wolfe on Facebook. "A terrific businessman, a pillar of the community and a man with a strong interest in sustainable forest management and community stability."
Prince George Spruce Kings BCHL hockey club official Jim Young also posted. "Today a great man passed away. RIP Ted Moffat and thank you for everything you and your family have done for the Prince George Spruce Kings!!!!"
Paul Williams of McInnis Lighting, another of the city's iconic businesses, said even if you weren't close friends with Moffat, you still felt his influence, and it was always honest and progressive.
"I so respect Ted. We can all speak volumes about Ted, and every word would be true," Williams said.
"I looked up to him as a leader, a stalwart community member," Holmes said.
Brownridge added that even during the fight with cancer, after he was diagnosed in July, Moffat fought with a smile on his face and always setting himself more goals for the future.
"He was a young man a heart, a young man physically," he said. "I got the benefit of his advice and wisdom and in recent months we had a lot of heart to heart discussions. I'm certainly a better person for that."