Theodore Clarence Carlstrom
May 1, 1933-May 12, 2023
Palo Alto, CA
Longtime Palo Alto resident Theodore Clarence Carlstrom passed away in the early hours of Friday, May 12 after a sudden and short illness. Throughout his hospitalization, Ted was surrounded by his immediate family who recall his extraordinary devotion to them, as well as a life marked by intellectual curiosity, an ongoing love of history, extensive volunteering, and a deep appreciation of the natural environment.
Ted was born on May 1, 1933 in Round Rock, Texas to the Reverend Clarence Elmer Carlstrom, a Lutheran minister, and Elsie Margaret Younggren Carlstrom, a classically-trained vocalist. Both of Ted's parents were the children of Swedish immigrants. In 1936, Ted's parents moved the family back to California where Ted's two older brothers, Gerard Marcus and John Phillip had been born. Settling at first in Oakland, the family relocated to Palo Alto in 1937 where Clarence was the pastor at First Lutheran Church in Palo Alto.
Ted had many fond memories of exploring a still semi-rural Palo Alto along with attending Addison Elementary and Jordan Junior High School (now Greene Middle School). He later graduated from Antioch High School in 1951 where his father Clarence had moved the family to answer a pastoral call from St. John's Lutheran Church in that East Bay town.
He attended Pacific Lutheran College (now Pacific Lutheran University) in Tacoma, Washington where he made many lifelong friends. During the summers, Ted worked long hours in an Antioch paper mill to help pay for his education. After graduating in 1955, Ted was drafted into the U.S. Army. While stationed in Japan he used his available free time to travel around the country and developed an enduring love of Japanese art.
Upon returning to Palo Alto in 1957, Ted investigated a few career opportunities and decided to attend Willamette Law School in Salem, Oregon. While studying there, he was a member of the law school’s team that won the National Moot Court Competition in 1959. He was admitted to the Oregon State Bar in 1960 and the California State Bar in 1961. He would remain a member of both legal organizations for the rest of his life.
Ted’s professional legal career began as a law clerk to California Supreme Court Associate Justice Maurice T. Dooling. He later worked as a lawyer for McCloskey, Wilson, and Mosher, and then as partner in the firm of Carlstrom, Heyler, & Mitchell. Later legal work saw Ted as a sole practitioner specializing in particular areas of law.
Much more important to Ted, though, was becoming reacquainted in 1962 with Alzora Albrecht, whom he had known as an undergraduate at Pacific Lutheran. Then teaching business subjects at Chief Sealth High School in Seattle, Alzora began dating Ted who would fly up to Washington as often as he could to see her. Ted and Alzora were married on February 23, 1963 in Seattle, honeymooned in British Columbia, and then headed back to California where they first lived in Menlo Park, then Woodside, and later, Palo Alto, where Ted had grown up. There they enjoyed a long, happy, and devoted marriage. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year.
That marriage saw Ted and Alzora taking their three sons — Paul, John, Andrew — on frequent camping trips up and down the West Coast, exploring beaches in California, Oregon, and Washington, being active in church, gardening, and visiting many relatives and friends near and far. Once the boys had grown, the couple continued to travel and delighted in their daughters-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Despite his busy family life and work schedule, Ted somehow managed to be active in numerous health, social, church, ecumenical, and environmental organizations. He was a director for Palo Alto - Stanford Hospital Center (now Stanford Hospital), as well as numerous arms of the Vesper healthcare organization in the East Bay. His work in education included being a regent for Pacific Lutheran University and California Lutheran University, along with being a director of both the Law Alumni Board for the College of Law, Willamette University, and the Alumni Board of Pacific Lutheran University.
Ted’s church and ecumenical activities were extensive and covered social matters as well as spiritual ones. He was one of the delegates of the National Council of Churches in Christ who visited China during its early reopening. His concern about nuclear war saw Ted collaborating with German Protestants in numerous disarmament summits and discussions.
Long an admirer of John Muir and active outdoors, Ted was a trustee on the founding board of the Peninsula Conservation Foundation and a director for the Committee for Green Foothills.
Up until his final illness, Ted was active and mentally sharp. He enjoyed corresponding with many friends around the world, planning household projects, reading extensively, and taking a great interest in family members’ accomplishments and adventures. His quick wit, love of nature, encyclopedic knowledge, and concern for the wellbeing of others remained almost until the end. All who knew him will miss his intellect, humor, kindness, and generosity.
Ted is survived by Alzora, his wife of 60 years, and their sons and their families. In Portland, Oregon, there is son Andrew and his wife Tracy Buseman-Carlstrom. In Palo Alto, California, there is son Paul, his wife Tanya Schornack-Carlstrom, and their daughter Olivia. In Granite Bay, California there is son John and his wife Jeanette whose children are daughter Kristin Hartman, her husband Trevor, and their children Josie, and Evie; their son Erik, his wife Erica, and their son Ben; and their daughter Linnea Sisson and her husband Max.
Other survivors include sisters-in-law, a niece, grandnieces, nephews, grandnephews, and cousins throughout the West Coast, Midwest, and in Sweden. Ted was predeceased by his parents, Clarence (1897 - 1955) and Elsie (1900 - 1965) and brothers John Phillip (1932 - 1959) and Gerard Marcus (1929 - 2016).
The family wishes to thank the kind and extraordinary staff at the Stanford Hospital Intensive Care Unit and of hospice for their expertise and their loving care for Ted.
Ted’s memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at 1:30 PM at First Lutheran Church in Palo Alto. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider making charitable donations in memory of Ted to Lutheran World Relief, First Lutheran Church, Doctors Without Borders, or to the charity of your choice.