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VIDEO: The loss of homeless advocate John Thiessen leaves a void

John Thiessen will be remembered as a man who exemplified what it means to put others ahead of yourself.

Even as his own health was failing, he was still reaching out to people living on the streets of Kelowna with the necessities of life.

Thiessen suffered a heart attack Friday and died.

To Wilber Turner, John Thiessen was a good friend and neighbour.

"He loved to stir the pot, and create controversy," acknowledged Turner, "but it really brought people to his conversations, where he was able to raise awareness about the homeless."

Turner added that he raised a substantial amount of money for people experiencing homelessness.

"He bought supplies, he bought warm coats and blankets and food and warm meals," said Turner, "and took it to the homeless people on the streets where they needed it."

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

Turner said the last few times he saw Thiessen, he wasn't well.

Despite that, Thiessen was handing out warm food to people on both Monday and Thursday evenings this week.

"He had trouble just even walking. He would fall a lot and lose his balance. He had broken his arm and he was in pain," Turner explained.

"He had just had cataract surgery last week and he was still out on the street the day before he passed away giving out food to the folks on the street."

While he was sometimes a critic of the city's homelessness strategy, a spokesperson for the City of Kelowna offered this comment.

"Mr. Thiessen was a strong and dedicated advocate," said corporate communications manager Tom Wilson, "and ally of those experiencing homelessness. His caring work certainly helped many individuals and we join the many community members who supported his efforts in extending our sincere condolences to his family, friends."

Thiessen's death leaves a void, said Turner.

"He was a true friend of the people on the street and he knew what they needed."

A celebration of life will be held for John in January.

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