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John Thiessen, a long-time advocate for Kelowna’s homeless, passes away at 60

A man who worked tirelessly to support Kelowna’s homeless population has passed away suddenly at the age of 60.

John Thiessen’s wife Debra took to social media, a platform where John’s presence was widely felt, to announce the tragic news on Sunday.

She revealed that her husband of 34 years, and her best friend since the age of 19, passed away on Friday from a heart attack.

Debra described her late husband as “funny, kind, caring, empathetic and talented,” adding that the family finds comfort knowing that he is no longer in pain.

“Hopefully someone will take over the much-needed caring for the unhoused on the streets of Kelowna in his absence,” she said.

Thiessen was a long-time advocate for Kelowna’s homeless population and consistently used social media as a tool to raise awareness and collect donations for his efforts.

He would post his plans to various local Facebook groups, urging others to donate anything they could and even give their time to feed, clothe or generally support those without permanent housing.

Through donations and volunteers, John was able to hit the streets of Kelowna to support the homeless with everything from cheeseburgers and hot dogs to blankets and mittens.

Just last week, he handed out 100 Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers from Wendy’s on Monday night and was back out on Thursday providing many hungry unhoused residents with Costco hot dogs.

“As good as the 100 burgers, chips and pop are to hand out, the constant requests for blankets, jackets, sleeping bags, mitts (and) pillows ring in my ears,” he wrote on Monday night.

“I simply wish I could do more. Every night we go out we have two vehicles full of items and within the two hours of being out there, both vehicles are pretty empty. If you have any extras please let us know.”

On Thursday, he shared on Facebook that it was a tough night for him physically as he recovered from cataract surgery and dealt with an injured arm.

Despite that, he was still out with other volunteers doing the work that was so important to him.

“I’ve spent a few nights on my own helping my unhoused friends, but tonight the universe must have known I needed help,” he said, referring to those who volunteered to help him in his efforts. “All I got tonight is immense thanks and gratitude.”

An immense outpouring of grief on Debra’s post announcing John’s passing shows the significant impact the 60-year-old had on the community.

“He's one who has had a great impact on so many lives, and I (among many others) found his posts inspirational in my own life,” wrote one person.

“He was such a kind human doing wonderful things for others,” shared another.

Debra said that a celebration of life will be held for John in January.

Thumbnail photo courtesy of John Thiessen's Facebook page.

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