FINDLAY — James Streicher, 87, a three-time U.S. Auto Club National Midget Car Owner champion and University of Toledo athletics goodwill ambassador, died of pneumonia Saturday in Birchaven Retirement Village.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in April, his wife, Pauline, said.
Mr. Streicher attended his first auto race in Toledo when he was 12, his son, Pat Streicher, said. From that point, “that was his life,” he said.
He began his racing career in the 1950s, and was able to work in the pit crew with well-known mechanic Clint Brawner and racing legend Mario Andretti at the 1965 Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The racer won USAC National Midget Car Owner championships in 1983, 1990, and 1991.
Racing was a family affair, Mrs. Streicher said.
“Our daughters participated in this. We always did it as family. That’s how our children grew up,” Mrs. Streicher said. “We were all together. That’s the basis of our racing activity.”
Mr. Streicher’s oldest son, Michael, who entered the racetrack for the first time at 3, went on to win a USAC national midget title with his father.
“My father was the supportive cast behind us,” Pat Streicher said. “We won a lot of races — a combination of me, my brother, and my father.”
Pat Streicher also raced with his father, completing a quarter midget that earned him and his father a national Heavy AA title.
“It got to the point where Pat was driver and Mike was the mechanic and ‘Big Jim’ was at the helm,” Mrs. Streicher said. “They always went to win, they never went to come in second.”
In fact, Mr. Streicher helped prepare the car grandson Rich used to win an AA title about three hours before Mr. Streicher died Saturday. They had been debating whether to continue with the race.
“I had a conversation with Mike and reminded him that he knew Big Jim would be expecting them to compete regardless of what Jim’s health situation would be because that was very near and dear to Jim’s heart,” Mrs. Streicher said.
Mr. Streicher sold radio advertising before starting his own printing business, Streicher’s Quickprint, with his wife in Findlay in 1969.
Mrs. Streicher said the family sold everything they owned to start the business, ran on a tight budget, and took a four-year hiatus from racing to stabilize Quickprint. But the business flourished, and in 1977 the Streichers were recognized for Quickprint’s progressive achievements in the Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine. They retired the business in 2000.
Mrs. Streicher said she met her husband in 1955 before he began selling ads while he was working with the UT athletic department. they were married the following year. His job was goodwill ambassador, helping players become acclimated to the area.
She recalled a story about Mr. Streicher while the two were dating: Mr. Streicher, known for helping new athletes get settled into Toledo, helped convince a football player who was ready to catch the next bus out of town to stick with Toledo. Mr. Streicher worked at UT after being discharged from the Navy, where he served stateside duty for medical reasons, during World War II.
Visitation is from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Kirkpatrick-Behnke Funeral Home, Findlay. A Mass of Christian Burial will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, Findlay,
Survivors include wife Pauline; sons Michael and Pat Streicher; daughters Kathleen Fritz and Maureen Stansbery, and 10 grandchildren.
The family suggests tributes to Aspen & Birch Neighborhood at Birchaven Retirement Village or to the Rich Vogler Memorial Scholarship.
Contact Traci Tillman at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.