Obituary: Thomas Michael Thornstrom

Beloved son, brother, grandson, cousin, nephew, uncle, ‘man about town’

Thomas Michael Thornstrom died unexpectedly on December 14 of complications from a stroke he had in July. He was surrounded by his mother, brothers and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Thomas was born September 18, 1985, to Rob and Lynn Thornstrom, following the births of his older brothers Todd and Tyler. He resided his entire life in Claremont, attending Mountain View Elementary School, El Roble Intermediate School, and Claremont High School. He also attended Citrus College. He lived with his mother and brother Todd at the time of his death.

In 1996, while in the fifth grade, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, followed by chemotherapy, radiation, and two brain surgeries. His last surgery, in 1999, left him with vision difficulties and psychological and behavioral abnormalities associated with dysfunction of the brain.

He attended several summer camps through Camp Ronald McDonald and appeared in a television commercial for the camp in the late 1990s.

Never really acknowledging he had a deficit, he embraced being different. He was a dichotomy; although fiercely independent, he would not hesitate to ask for help, even for things that he was more than capable of doing for himself. “He loved the attention,” his family shared. “He loved interacting with people. Odds are if you ever met Thomas, you would never forget him. Actually, he would not let you forget him with his daily telephone calls and emails.”

While looking through his computer, his mother found several pictures of characters he identified with: one pictured a yellow M&M, and said, “People think I’m crazy. But I think of myself as normal with a twist of AWESOME.” The others included Disney’s Goofy and the dwarf Happy from Snow White. The sayings he saved were, “Only do what your heart tells you,” “Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile,” and “How sweet it is to be Loved by You.”

“Thomas was a loving soul and never hesitated to greet a stranger and start up a conversation,” his family said. “Once, after a young man visited Thomas in his home, his mother asked where did you meet him?  Thomas replied, ‘In line at the ATM.’”

His brother Tyler spoke of his love of the 1990s. He watched daily reruns of “Friends,” “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” and “Saved by the Bell.” He also loved the music of the ‘90s and often posted songs on Facebook. He also loved to dance and was often the first one on the dance floor. No partner needed, but always welcomed.

Unable to drive, he used Get About and Claremont Dial-a-Ride to travel around Claremont. Several years ago, he purchased an adult tricycle and became “man about town.” “You’ve probably seen him travel along Foothill Blvd. from Trader Joe’s to La Paloma restaurant, stopping at Sprouts, Stater Bros, and CVS along the way,” his family added.

He loved to shop, especially if he had a coupon or there was a sale, and would make purchases, whether or not he needed the item. His mother said this was possibly an inherited trait. His cupboard was unintentionally well stocked in case of an emergency. He once dyed his hair because he got a coupon from Supercuts.

One of his favorite places was Trader Joe’s, where he was befriended by the staff. He would visit them frequently on his tricycle and speak by phone with some of them on a daily basis. Several of the staff members visited him while he was recovering from his stroke at Casa Colina.

He also loved La Paloma. Many of his aunts and uncles worked there in their youth, and most of his younger birthdays were celebrated there with his family. He considered the staff family, and once said that although he liked the food, especially the pizzadilla, he loved to socialize there.

More than anything else, he loved his family. “His father, Rob Thornstrom, passed away in 2007,” his family shared. “Prior to his death, Thomas was his constant companion and best friend, a blessing for them both.”

He was especially proud of being the oldest of the 13 Sturgis cousins, behind his two brothers. Even more special was being uncle Thomas to his niece and nephew, Georgie, and Miles.

“All those who knew Thomas would have to agree, he was a little crazy with a twist of AWESOME, and how sweet it was to love and be loved by Thomas,” his family said.

Thomas was preceded in death by his father Rob Thornstrom and his grandparents, Mandy and Don Sturgis.

He is survived by his mother Lynn Thornstrom; brothers Todd Thornstrom and Tyler (Jess) Thornstrom; aunts and uncles Steve Sturgis (Stacey), Nancy Sturgis, Mark Sturgis (Sheila), Todd Sturgis, Doug Sturgis (Cheryl), Tom Sturgis, Linda Bradley, Terry (Buck) James and Don Vandegriff; cousins, Brittany (Andy Scrape), Sarah, Matthew and Michael Sturgis, Aubrey and Brennen Biewener, Brian (Kaitlyn) Sturgis-Jensen, Sean (Megan) Sturgis, Leah (John) Davis, Lauren (Jared) Haston, Paul Sturgis, Ashleigh (Dennis) Sturgis/Perry, Alina Sturgis and Maddie Keehn, Jennifer (Jimmy) Friend and Cathy Corkrum; niece and nephew Georgie and Miles Thornstrom; and second cousins, Ben Scrape, Elias and Emma Sturgis, Cooper Davis, Hadley, Cody and Conner Haston, Jameson Perry and Kinsley Keehn.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his name to the City of Hope at cityofhope.org/giving.

A celebration of life will be scheduled in the new year.

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