Members of Nevada County’s homeless community and its supporters are mourning the loss of advocate Thomas Streicher, who died in a weekend wreck in Wyoming on his way back to feed Nevada City’s needy after a trip to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where he visited quarterly to provide food and other donated items.
“It’s very shocking,” said Cheryl Zellers, a former board member of Divine Spark, Streicher’s charitable nonprofit. “I’m still in the mode where I don’t believe it.”
Returning from his 42nd charitable trip to the reservation, Streicher, 58, died Friday evening after losing control of his vehicle along an icy stretch of Interstate 80, 45 miles east of Rock Springs, Wyo., according to Sgt. Stephen Townsend of the Wyoming Highway Patrol. Responding paramedics pronounced Streicher dead en route to medical facilities on a night fraught with winter weather, Townsend said. Streicher, who was reportedly not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from his vehicle when it crossed the median and rolled. No other vehicles or individuals were involved in the wreck.
As the leader of Divine Spark, Streicher was an uncompromising advocate for the homeless, feeding hundreds of Nevada County’s in-need individuals.
“His focus is helping people. That seemed to be his life. I don’t know of any other activities he did beside helping others,” said Quique Barletta, a Divine Spark volunteer. “It just seemed to take up all of his life. I admired him for that.”
Although Divine Spark was initially founded to provide resources to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, it later expanded to feed western Nevada County’s homeless people every Sunday at the Madelyn Helling Library.
“The homeless people respect him,” Barletta said. “They speak so highly of him and are so grateful for what he does.”
Over the years, the program moved around and grew to a five-day feeding center before losing its feeding location at Nevada City’s veterans building — evidence of a contentious relationship with the town’s government. It was not uncommon to find Streicher at odds with elected officials. During many of the Nevada City Council meetings in 2012, Streicher would greet attendees in front of City Hall with picket signs and a few fellow protestors. Then, in those meetings, Streicher would deliver impassioned speeches.
“When the burden was the greatest for him is when he would puff up (his chest) the biggest,” said Stephanie Cohelan, also a former board member of Divine Spark.
Most recently, Streicher blamed Nevada City officials for the Truckee’s recreation and park official’s rescindment of access to the town’s Community Arts Center’s kitchen, where Divine Spark had planned to feed that area’s homeless individuals.
Today, Divine Spark continues to feed between 30 and 60 homeless people at a cost of about $3,000 per month through a food voucher system and recently expanded those services to Truckee.
Already, Streicher’s absence was felt in Nevada City Sunday, when voucher recipients were not provided their food tickets at the same time they were told of the death, Barletta said.
“People don’t understand yet just how big of vacuum he has left, how big a hole he has left behind,” Cohelan said.
In addition to his feeding programs, Streicher also hosted large holiday gatherings where food, music and other festivities were offered around Christmas.
“What would make him happy is that we would carry on in the tradition he set forth for us,” Cohelan said. “Nobody can take his place, but everybody can do something. Because he covered such a broad spectrum of social issues, everybody can find something in his life they the can take into their own lives and further.”
Streicher was also a nationally recognized author. His most recent book, “Extra-Planetary Experiences,” delved in to human contact with aliens and consciousness expansion. The book garnered Streicher an appearance on “Coast to Coast,” a national radio talk show about the occult, phenomena and conspiracies that reaches 3 million listeners, making it the most listened to overnight radio program in North America.
“A lot of people outside of the homeless people knew him,” Cohelan said. “He did a lot with the Native American community as well.”
Streicher was born in January of 1955 in Milwaukee. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps on active duty starting in 1973, according to his website. He garnered four meritorious promotions up to the rank of sergeant by the time of his honorable discharge in 1975. In 1984, Streicher earned his associate’s degree in business management from Moorpark College. In 1999, he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, Sacramento, followed by a master’s degree in transpersonal psychology at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto. He also obtained a Ph.D. in psychology at Saybrook University in San Francisco.
Streicher was also an environmental activist, a supporter of addiction recovery, a father of three adult daughters and an avid traveler to Europe, especially Austria, where he lived one month each year, according to Streicher’s website.
He is survived by his daughters, Jenn, Kristie and Ashley Streicher; his mother, Ann Streicher; and his siblings, Jeannie Nagelson, John Streicher and Michael Streicher.
“We all loved our father. We loved seeing him doing what he did best,” said daughter Kristie Streicher. “We felt blessed that he found what he wanted to do in life.”
Her father was reportedly eagerly awaiting the arrival of his first grandchild, due to his daughter Jenn Streicher in a couple of weeks, said Kristie Streicher.
The family plans to feed the homeless Sunday at the Nevada City Veterans Hall in honor of Streicher, his daughter said, adding details on the event are forthcoming.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.
An earlier version of this story included a quote by Cheryl Zellers about the voucher program’s continuance, which she has since disputed and it was removed from the story. Instead, Zellers submitted the following statement: “There are many folks who have concern and desire to continue the efforts of Divine Spark and the late Thomas J. Streicher’s efforts with caring for the homeless. At the time that I spoke with Chris Rosacker there were plans to hand out food, vouchers, ect. on Sunday March 31st. Since this time, a Memorial and Meal has been planned for Easter Sunday at The Vetrans’ Hall in Nevada City--time to be announced. This meal is initiated by the family of Tomas and is supported by friends and helpers of Divine Spark.”
“People don’t understand yet just how big of vacuum he has left, how big a hole he has left behind.”
Stephanie Cohelan, on the death of Divine Spark founder Thomas Streicher