'Very special' planner Greg Priamo remembered as problem-solver – London Free Press (Blogs)

When Greg Priamo reached out to his business partner, Richard Zelinka, to tell him he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the way he told his friend said a lot about Priamo’s character, Zelinka recalled Wednesday.
When Greg Priamo reached out to his business partner, Richard Zelinka, to tell him he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the way he told his friend said a lot about Priamo’s character, Zelinka recalled Wednesday.
“He got this terrible prognosis and even though it was devastating to him his response was: ‘Someone will get this. I would not wish it on anyone else. I am not special,’ ” said an emotional Zelinka.
“Most of us would say, ‘Why me?’ His response was ‘I am not better than anyone. Why not me?’ The sentiment ‘I am not special’ spoke to how special he really was.”
Priamo, partner in the private London planning firm Zelinka Priamo Ltd., died Oct. 30 at the age of 58.
Priamo and Zelinka opened the firm in 1999 after working together at the city in the planning department and it has become the largest planning business west of Kitchener, with a long client list of established developers as well as major commercial businesses.
“Greg was like a brother to me. We were very close, we shared the same values. We were very different and operated differently, but we never had an argument in all the years we were together,” Zelinka said.
One of the things that impressed Zelinka about his partner was how Priamo cared for clients, colleagues and just about everyone he worked with, he said.
“If there was a disagreement on policy or planning, it never turned to rancor. He cared and was always respectful and conciliatory in a way that amazed me.”
Priamo was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July.
“He had the best client base in Southwestern Ontario. Not just developers but Canadian Tire, Loblaws,” said developer Vito Frijia, chief executive of Southside Group, who worked with him on several projects.
“He was very knowledgeable. He was a great guy. I will miss him as a friend and as a mentor.”
John Fleming, former director of planning for the city, worked with Priamo on many developments in the 30 years Fleming was at city hall, the last 10 as director.
“I will miss Greg. I thought a lot of him as a planner and as a person. He was a problem-solver,” Fleming said.
“He looked for solutions. He could bring a difficult application forward and work with staff to find a resolution.”
He also applauded his sense of humour. Fleming recalled times when talks with clients and city staff were tense, and a well-timed Priamo joke broke the tension.
“I think the London planning community will miss him. He was a great planner and had a great sense of humour. There were times his humour helped bring the temperature down and brought things back on track,” Fleming said.
Priamo also was known as a loving family man, husband to Bobbi-Lyn and father to Adam and Natalie, not missing a hockey game or dance recital.
“Greg enjoyed every hockey game and dance recital; every academic achievement and work pursuit; every family fun time and vacation that could be spent in the company of his children,” stated the obituary posted on the Westview Funeral Chapel website.
“Greg had a huge heart; loved his wife and children immensely; and had much confidence in their strength for building a strong future.”
The obituary is followed by a long list of memories and condolences from many prominent Londoners, recalling Priamo’s impact.
Born in Guelph, Priamo grew up in London, studied at University of Waterloo and became a registered professional planner and member of the Canadian Institute of Planners.
“He knew the importance of family. You work hard but make sure you put your priorities in place and family was always up there,” Zelinka said.
“He was always accommodating of family needs.”
In a 2015 London Free Press profile story , Priamo spoke about his move from municipal  work to the private sector.
“It was a leap of faith; you have to have faith in yourself,” he said.
“There is something very satisfying about making decisions and living with the consequences, good and bad. The fact we were able to drive our own goals and objectives was the key. The level of satisfaction is what I expected it to be and that continues to motivate us.”
A funeral mass will be held Thursday morning.
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