Tom Striker

We got the sad news today that Tom Striker had died.

He was a major force in the birding community here. As many know, he owned Blue Ridge Bird Seed in downtown Blue Ridge. He and his wife Sonja worked the store for many years, the “World Headquarters,” as the banner above the office proclaimed.

I know a little about his history, as he talked about it some when he taught at the Master Naturalist class that we attended. And he talked about it a little more when he taught again at the class we led. He grew up in Illinois, and hunted squirrel and pheasant when young. He conceded this a little reluctantly, saying “We had all those cornfields.”

He was the District Ranger for the Green Mountain District in Vermont. “That’s the best job in the Forest Service,” he said, meaning – I think – District Ranger. He declined to take the next move, which likely would have been to Washington, where he never would have been free again. Instead, he asked the Forest Service to send him to business school, so he could better explain to them how screwed up they were, with the same policies that drive a lot of us nuts – building roads that cost too much to sell timber at a loss, in stands that ought to be left standing. Needless to say, they declined.

So he went to business school himself. And, we must assume, made buckets of money in the private sector. How he landed in Blue Ridge, I never heard.

But in the years that he had his store, he taught classes at Young Harris College, and I think at the John C. Campbell Folk School, and led many bird walks out of the store.

He didn’t hear well, which handicapped him a bit as a birder, but he more than made up with it with his knowledge and experience.

If I wanted to know something, I emailed him. If he ignored me, I’d just go in and hassle him in his store. It’s kind of tough to avoid me, if I want to know something you know.

He was a good businessman. For instance, he would meet the price on Optics Planet for things like binoculars and spotting scopes, because he knew if he didn’t, you’d just buy it from them.

He was a good guy, and he will be missed.

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