An undated photo of Ted Strickroth and his rescue cat,...

An undated photo of Ted Strickroth and his rescue cat, Flint. Strickroth, a traveling educator on Long Island into the 2020s, died March 16 of cancer. He was 75. Credit: Genevieve Rippe

Some people are a force of nature. Riverhead’s Ted Strickroth was a force helping benefit nature. Through his nonprofit, Wilderness Traveling Museum, he educated generations of children at schools and events, imparting to them the ways of Native Americans.

“I try to teach kids that these people were the best recyclers,” he said in 2017. “We recycle bottles and cans, but the natives just did it a little differently.”

Strickroth, who died at home March 16 at 75, following years of cancer, “taught thousands of people,” said his longtime friend Joe Colao, of Southampton. “He would go to a school district that would hire him to do a program to teach Native American culture, and there would be teachers and principals that would say, ‘Ted, I remember you from when I was in fourth grade.’ ”

Recalled another friend, Renato Stafford, of Peconic, “He would have summer camps — a wilderness week they called it — where he would teach kids survival skills and Native American culture,” including painting, fire-making and bow-and-arrow use.

“He just gave to everybody selflessly,” Stafford said. “When [Superstorm] Sandy came, my family and I were without power at our house. Ted rolls up and he's got a generator ready. Anything you needed, there was never a ‘let me see what I can do.’ It was always yes, and then he figured out how to make it happen.”

Indeed, during Strickroth’s 1970s stint in the U.S. Marines, a letter from his commanding officer nominating him for Marine of the Month lauded the corporal as “highly respected by both his superiors and co-workers” and praised “his ability to quickly grasp a technical situation and solve the problem … .”

Diagnosed in the early 2010s with liposarcoma, a rare cancer that can develop in any tissue, he was advised by doctors to have his right arm, where a malignant tumor nestled, amputated. “But he was a carpenter” by profession, said another friend, Calverton’s Helen Mecagni, “and he did his programs for the schools, so he wanted to keep his arm as long as possible, and was willing to accept the fact the cancer could spread.”

He eventually had an above-the-elbow amputation “three to four years ago,” said a nephew, Joe Gennarelli, of Holbrook, and continued doing his programs. But the cancer spread, and despite multiple surgeries as late as January, Strickroth succumbed.

“One of the kindest, gentlest people I ever met in my life,” as Colao described him, Theodore “Ted” John Strickroth was born Nov. 8, 1948, in Queens, the younger of two children of mechanical engineer Theodore Joseph Strickroth and homemaker and department store telephone operator Virginia E. McLarty Strickroth. The family moved to Long Island during Ted Strickroth’s youth, and the teen graduated from Huntington High School.

Strickroth entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 1970 and was honorably discharged in 1976 after serving posts including with Marine Air Control Group 38, based in Yuma, Arizona, heading its Continuous Wave Radar Section.

Returning to civilian life, he worked as a carpenter and found an affinity for Native American culture. In 1990 he formed his New York State nonprofit organization, designed to provide a “hands-on learning experience with Native American culture and natural history” and “introduce participants to the preservation of the land and its ecology.”

Up until a month before his death, said Mecagni, he brought his programs to schools, Scout troops and such events as the annual Bradstock festival in Center Moriches. His many avocations included the camper-trailer group the Metropolitan New York Airstream Club. After living in Aquebogue, he moved to Riverhead 12 years ago.

Never married, Strickroth is survived by his sister, Virginia Strickroth Gennarelli, of St. Augustine, Florida; nephews Chris Gennarelli, of Augusta, Georgia, and Joe; niece Hope Gennarelli Noschese, of St. Augustine; and several cousins.

Donations may be made to East End Hospice, in Westhampton Beach, or the Quogue Wildlife Refuge.

A memorial will be held this summer, said Joe Gennarelli, who noted that the planning is daunting. “There are 1,600 phone numbers in his phone,” he said. “He’s got people from all over the country calling” to be there and pay their respects.

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