In Memory of Thomas Streicher

Thomas Streicher from Divine Spark on Vimeo.

Don Ryberg, Tomas Streicher, Michael Bend - May 2006

In Remembrance of Tomas Streicher
Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

A 'Letting Go Ceremony' was hosted at the Indian Cultural Center at the Burton Land Trust at 16200 Lake Vera Road just outside Nevada City - this will mark the one-year anniversary of the passing of Tomas Streicher. Please arrive at 6:45pm Apropos to transition; this Sacred Ceremony will begin as the sun sets. This is a release of a wonderful friend. This is an opportunity to honor Tomas, this last year, and to look back at the four seasons of emotions. Perhaps to release sadness, bitter sweet joys, and fears, as we walk our path without our good friend Tomas in this physical world. There will be a fire -- bring blankets/chairs.

Contact Stephanie Lorensen at 271-7386 for more information.

Nevada City homeless advocate Thomas Streicher
killed in Wyoming wreck

by Christopher Rosacker
25 March 2013
The Union Newspaper

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.

Thomas Streicher

“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.”

Thomas Streicher, 58, the founder of Divine Spark,
was killed in a car crash over the weekend.
Photo courtesy of Nevada City Advocate/Scott Gilbert.

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.”

"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

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.

Thomas Streicher

“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 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."

Pine Ridge humanitarian from California dies in Wyoming car crash

by Joe O'Sullivan
26 March 2013
Rapid City Journal
Rapid City, South Dakota

When Regina Brave needed a sewing machine, Thomas Streicher brought her one. Another time, he delivered a crib mattress for one of her family members. For Thanksgivings, Streicher would fill his white extension van with turkeys.

Each delivery clocked in at 1,250 miles one-way: from Streicher's home in Nevada City, Calif., to the Pine Ridge Reservation.

First it was one or two trips a year, then four trips, shuttling whatever he thought could help Pine Ridge residents into his 1992 Ford van.

"He had all the seats taken out and he loaded it as much as he could with clothing, fabrics, furniture," Brave, a 72-year-old Oglala resident, said Monday.

Thomas Streicher

Thomas Streicher was a man of many talents but devoted much of his energy to helping the homeless in California and residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Streicher, 58, lost control of his van Friday on icy roads while returning to California after yet another delivery to the reservation. About 45 miles east of Rock Springs, Wyo., on Interstate 80, the van landed in the median and rolled one-and-half times, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

The force threw Streicher, who wasn't wearing a seatbelt, from the van. He died on the way to a nearby hospital.

In Nevada City, Streicher was known to leave his van unlocked outside his office for people to stop by and drop off donations. Out of that same office, he handed out food vouchers to the homeless and served hot meals through his nonprofit organization, Divine Spark.

He was also known in Nevada City as a strident advocate for the poor and wasn't afraid to get confrontational with local politicians. An ex-Marine who was skilled in woodworking, Streicher made Divine Spark his full-time vocation.

He wrote, too. After getting a doctorate degree in psychology from Saybrook University in San Francisco, he spun his thesis into a book, "Extra-Planetary Experiences: Alien-Human Contact and the Expansion of Consciousness."

But that came after his voyages to Pine Ridge, which started in 2002. It all began when Streicher met somebody from Pine Ridge about 20 years ago, according to his daughter, Kristie Streicher.

As he learned about the reservation's troubles with poverty, he decided to help, a van load at a time.

But he didn't just give; the Lakota Sioux gave him something he didn't find anywhere else.

"He became very close and was really drawn to the Native American spiritual essence," Kristie Streicher, 36, said.

Streicher took his experiences from Pine Ridge and shared them wherever he went. He'd perform Native American ceremonies at Divine Spark holiday events in California. At a book-signing last week in New York City, Streicher led the audience in a ceremonial meditation.

Streicher didn't waste time there either. He'd flown to New York for the Tuesday book-signing, then flew back to Utah where he'd left his van loaded with food and clothes.

He left Thursday for Pine Ridge and was back on the road by Friday, hoping to get back for his Sunday food bank event in California.

Cheryl Zellers, who produces Divine Spark's newsletter, said she doesn't know what will happen to Divine Spark. But Streicher's journeys across the interior West always worried her.

"Oftentimes, I would email him to be safe coming home," Zellers said. "I always thought, that's a long drive alone with a big van."

Pine Ridge Humanitarian Dies in Car Crash

by ICMN Staff
28 March 2013
Indian Country - Today Media Network

Thomas Streicher

He made more than 40 trips from Nevada City, California to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota over the last 10 years. He would load up his van with donations of frozen turkeys, hams, sewing machines and clothes and drive the 1,250 miles to the reservation.

That man is Thomas Streicher, the founder and director of Divine Spark, Inc., a California nonprofit.

“He had all the seats taken out and he loaded it as much as he could with clothing, fabrics, furniture,” Regina Brave, a 72-year-old Oglala resident told the Rapid City Journal on March 25. Streicher once brought Brave a sewing machine she was in need of.

On his way back from one of those deliveries, Streicher, 58, got caught in a snowstorm on March 22 and lost control of his van on an icy road in Wyoming. He walked on while being transported to the hospital.

His son in law, Jonny Cournoyer told Indian Country Today Media Network that he was trying to get back in time for the Sunday food program his nonprofit runs.

“He died as he spent his life, in service to those in need, driven by a selfless passion to help others,” says Streicher's obituary from his family. “He will be greatly missed by friends and family and the many lives that he touched and made better.”

Cournoyer, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said his family on the Rosebud Reservation is grieving the loss as well. He said Streicher first became interested in helping the Pine Ridge Reservation after he was invited there to experience a traditional ceremony.

Thomas Streicher

“While there he first witnessed the poverty that seems so overwhelming and apparent when first experiencing the reservation,” Cournoyer said. “It was after this initial visit he felt compelled to do whatever he could, which ten years later resulted in over 40 trips from Nevada City, California, which equals the distance three times around the planet, in his attempts to help the people however he could. He always felt he received far beyond what he gave from the Lakota.”

Streicher himself said it wasn't only about helping people, it was about much more than that, in a 2011 article from The Union Newspaper.

“We do this to improve relations with the original people of this country. We want to heal the intergenerational trauma of genocide,” Steicher said. “We're trying to improve, not only their financial situation, but also improve communication between our two cultures.”

Thomas Streicher, 58, passed away in a car accident in Wyoming on March 22.