How Jeff Tocher went from homelessness to gallery artist

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Jeff Tocher peers through one of the lenses on his painting of John Lennon at The Landing Art Gallery in Port Angeles. — Photo by Chris Tucker/Peninsula Profile

By Diane Urbani de la Paz

Messengers, one after another, have whispered two things to Jeff Tocher.

Believe in your talent.

Use it to start anew.

One of the first messengers spoke to him one wet, cold spring day in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. There, Tocher was a homeless drunk looking for $1.35. That would buy him a 40-ouncer, a bottle of malt liquor to get him through the afternoon.

A passer-by told him: Sure, I’ll give you the money, if you’ll come have a bowl of soup with me.

They sat outdoors — Tocher knew his clothes stank, so he didn’t want to go inside the cafe — and talked a bit.

The man asked Tocher, then 37, how he ended up on the street.

Tocher admitted that after hitting bottom, he had been ready to go to a treatment center in Camas. He had planned to take the bus there; instead he’d gotten drunk again, and the driver wouldn’t let him on board.

“Don’t give up. There must be someone you can call,” the soup man said.

Nope, no one, Tocher replied at first.

Then: OK, my father lives in Sequim, just across the water — but I can’t call him. I’ve let him down one time too many.

Just try one call, said the soup man. I’ll give you the change.

So there they stood, pouring quarters into a pay telephone, to reach Tocher’s father. Retired Army Col. Patrick Tocher answered, and his son simply said, “Dad, I screwed up again.”

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