Walter Thomas Strickland was born Oct. 8, 1935, in Bridgeport, Texas.
Around 1973, his family moved to California and settled in the Dairyland area of Chowchilla. Tom attended Dairyland Elementary and Chowchilla High School. Also, as a teenager, he worked at the Alpha Beta feed lot in Dairyland. The owner of the feed lot, Hugh Garrard, who was one of the founders of Alpha Beta Food Markets, helped Tom relocate to Orange County where he completed high school before entering the U.S. Army, where he served with the military police.
In 1962, Tom married Jody Amman and began his career in law enforcement with the El Segundo Police Department. They had two sons, Roger and Ronnie. Tom left the El Segundo PD to take a job with the City of Orange Police Department in 1965. He earned his associate of arts degree during that time and remained with the Orange Police Department until he resigned in 1983 to take the undersheriff’s position with the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office.
In 1982, Tom married Nancy Probert, who grew up a mile from Tom, in the Ashland/ Dairyland area of Chowchilla. Both were living in Orange County and became acquainted in 1981 when Nancy’s mother, Esther Probert Johnson, wrote an article about Alpha Beta and its connection to Chowchilla and contacted Tom during her research.
Tom served as undersheriff and interim sheriff in Mariposa County before retiring in 1991. An avid “builder,” Tom improved their home in Jerseydale before building a new home closer to the town of Mariposa.
Tom was a man of faith, which began as a teenager when became involved in small Dairyland Baptist Church. He never forgot his roots and continued to grow in his relationship with the Lord, always giving Him the glory for taking care of him all of his life. His attitude and legacy can be seen in his son Ronnie’s Facebook post:
“Unfortunately, our world lost a Great Man today, and Heaven gained one. My Dad left this earth today after 85 years. He lived a very good life. He had a career in law enforcement for 31 years and was able to retire at 55 years old. He was the most honest many I knew. He was strict but fair, honorable and always doing what was right. This man has not only taught me how to be a gentleman but also taught me skills, liking working on cars, building things, welding, etc., but more importantly not to be afraid to try stuff or learn new stuff as long as it was not costly or dangerous. I will miss this man until I see him again in Heaven, and if it all works out, that will be in about 30 years, but that is whatever God’s will is.
“Love you Dad, see you in the blink of an eye, your loving son, Ronnie.”
Tom is survived by his wife, Nancy; sons Roger and Ronnie; daughter-in-law Rosie; grandchildren Zach, Alex and Whitney; a brother, Roy; and sister-in-law Judy and her husband Rod La Salle.
Family plans are pending for a memorial service to be held in Orange County at a later date.