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Theodore James Pettek, better known as “Ted,” of Toms River, New Jersey, passed away suddenly on September 29, 2023 at the age of 69.
Ted was born on August 6, 1954 to Dolores and George Pettek. He grew up in Atco, New Jersey and joined the United States Marine Corps after high school graduation. Following basic training, Ted was sent to various locations in Europe. He returned to New Jersey after three years and took up the family trade of carpentry. At the age of 21, he met Judy Formanek on a blind double date, and the rest is history. Ted and Judy soon married and eventually welcomed three daughters. Ted’s devotion to Judy and his girls would frame every action of his life.
The family followed Ted’s parents and siblings to Florida, where Ted operated construction companies, often working alongside his family and friends. He was demanding when it came to craftsmanship, but generous when creating opportunities and barter relationships among his crew members and suppliers. He had been an avid basketball player since childhood and continued playing on teams until a serious knee injury took him off the court in his 30s. After ten years, Ted and Judy’s family left Florida and returned to New Jersey for good. Construction opportunities were not plentiful, so Ted applied to teach carpentry shop at Camden County Vocational Technical School in Pennsauken. Ted did not have teaching experience or the education required for the position, and the salary was less than he needed; but the school was so eager to get the benefit of his expertise and military training that they offered him alternate route teacher training, a higher base salary, the opportunity to teach night school, and the option to coach basketball. Ted said he’d try it.
For the next 25 years, Mr. Pettek taught carpentry shop. It took a few years to develop his teaching skills and reputation, but there was no question of his effectiveness and popularity. Every year, he recruited students to help him with summer projects and other side jobs. Every year, he complained about the lack of discipline and math skills of his freshmen, which he improved with daily computation assignments, chores, and write-ups. His shop was always perfectly organized, dusted and swept. The students would build a small house on the protected lot outside the shop as a year-long project. For many years, Ted would be stopped in public by former students who were working in construction and wanted to update him on their lives.
Ted was charismatic, good-humored, and fun. His catalogue of jokes was endless, his delivery was flawless, and his ability to summon and apply the right joke in any given situation was astonishing. He swore like a Marine his entire life and enjoyed crude humor immensely. He misheard and misspoke frequently. Ted was honest, not nice; but he was so funny and real that very few people minded his manners. Criticism and complaints were always housed in absurdity, making it difficult to hold a grudge against him for long. He enjoyed cooking, music, TV, movies and sports; he loved children and animals, and appreciated beauty.
Ted’s golden years began when he became Pop-pop. For the last fourteen years, his life revolved around his grandchildren. Mom-mom and Pop-pop hosted the grandkids as often as possible, and traveled to see them when they weren’t hosting. Neither long drives around the USA nor plane rides to Asia were any deterrent to seeing the grandkids. Ted and Judy traveled a bit as a couple, but most trips were to be with family.
Ted was preceded in death by his parents, Christian George and Theresa Dolores (Dever) Pettek, and his sister, Georgann (Pettek) Brodeur. He is survived by Judith (Formanek) Pettek, his wife of 47 years; his three daughters and their husbands, Denise (Pettek) and Gabriel Nahigian of Spring, TX; Dawn (Pettek) and Robert Muccigrosso of Toms River, NJ; and Michele (Pettek) and Melvin Calp of Cherry Hill, NJ; nine beloved grandchildren; three siblings, Christina (Pettek) Caracciolo and husband Michael Belboda of Madison, AL, and Geraldine (Pettek) LaLena and Carl Pettek of Melbourne, FL; as well as dozens of nieces, nephews and in-laws, and countless friends.
Relatives and friends are invited to his viewing Wednesday evening from 6 to 8 pm, and again Thursday from 9 to 9:45 am at the Gaskill-Brown Funeral Home, 33 West Maple Avenue, Merchantville Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 am, Thursday, October 5th at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church, 43 West Maple Avenue, Merchantville. Interment will follow at the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery, North Hanover Twp.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the American Heart Association, the ALS Association, or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.