Dean Pratico lived a life of adventure that began when he was young. He drove across Canada, lived on the beach in Mexico, backpacked across Europe, sailed across the Caribbean, and made trips to Thailand and China.
He was obsessed with cars, something that would last his entire life.
“I lost him one time and I found him downtown in a car,” said his mother Marie. “He was pretending he was driving.”
I spoke to Marie at her home last Friday, less than a week after her son had passed away at the age of 55, the result of an altercation that police determined was not criminal in nature. Joining us were Dean’s wife, Ping, and daughter, Pearl. They were coming to terms with the terrible tragedy, each in their own places — Ping shedding the most tears, Pearl showing composure beyond her years, and Marie somewhere in between.
“I called him my one in a million dad,” said Pearl. “He was a million things into one dad.”
Dean was born on Dec. 26, 1958, the son of Vince and Marie Pratico. Marie showed me a photo album Dean’s sister Julie made for him on his 40th birthday. It showed him as a baby, then growing up through kindergarten, his first communion, onwards through school, on the road and at work. There were photos of him hiking Mt. Begbie, skiing in the mountains, on the beach in Mexico and everywhere else.
The album began with a poem Julie wrote that captured his adventurous spirit.
“Where he could be now they all would say…was a common phrase heard throughout the day,” she wrote. “And how could a child bring such joy.”
Dean’s biggest love when he was young was hockey. He was good, and he played Junior hockey for the Merritt Centennials. That almost didn’t happen when he was involved in a serious car crash as a teenager.
“They thought he would never walk again but he came back,” said Marie.
Dean would spend what time he could in the mountains, hiking into remote areas with his friends, said Marie.
He worked as a logger and at the dam. At the insistence of his father, he took a refrigeration course that he never finished. He worked as a bartender in Calgary and managed a Moxie’s restaurant before coming back to Revelstoke, where he bought and ran the Burger Junction. He worked there until his rheumatoid arthritis forced him to go on disability.
“He liked nice things. That frustrated him, his arthritis,” said Marie. “He was a frustrated man because he couldn’t do the things he wanted to do. He didn’t want to be on a disability. It killed him.”
A decade ago Dean met his wife Ping online. He made a trip to China to visit her. On the second trip, for Ping’s sister’s wedding, he asked her father if he could marry her. The father was hesitant to let her daughter marry this man from Canada.
“Dean told my dad we had best country and nice family, just like your family,” said Ping. He won him over.
On his third trip to China in early 2005 Dean and Ping got married. He gave her a photo album of his family so she would know who she would be meeting in Canada
“Dean cried. That was the first time I see Dean cry,” she said. “I live here 10 years, I never see him cry — just this time.”
They lived in China together for 1.5 years and he would bring her flowers at work. They had a daughter, Pearl, and then they moved to Revelstoke after Dean’s father, Vince, passed away.
Their marriage wasn’t always easy.
“In our 10 years we had good times, we had bad times. We hate each other, we love each other,” said Ping. “It’s a very hard time because these last two weeks he gave so much to remember. He was a good husband.”
Pearl said Dean gave her advice, comfort and confidence. “He would never give up on me,” she said.
“He would always make me try harder and he would say that the people who make it get the things that they want in life, and the people who don’t make it are the people who don’t get the special memories in life.”
On Ninth Street, near the spot where Pratico’s death happened, several bouquets of flowers were placed in the fence alongside Queen Elizabeth Park. There was a card signed by the Davis family.
“The two words that my husband uses and has always used to describe Dean is ‘gentle giant,’ which is why all of this is so unbelievable,” said neighbour and friend Sandra Davis.
She called him a “very kind, very sweet man.”
“My most vivid memory of him is him walking hand in hand with his daughter,” he said. “He always would take his daughter’s little purple Dora backpack and sling it over his shoulder.”
Marie said that even though Dean traveled a lot, Revelstoke was always his home and the place he would come back to.
“He had a love of people, Revelstoke and the mountains,” she said. “He loved life and he loved people.”