Tom was born on December 27, 1966, and died on December 19, 2014, after a long struggle with chronic pain and illness. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, graduated from Orange High School, attended UC San Diego, worked in publications as a writer and managing editor, and in IT as a web developer and network manager. But Tom was far more than he appears on paper: he was known by all for his sharp mind and clever tongue, his struggle against oppression in any form, his artistry in word and wood, his knowing smirk, and his overreaching compassion for other beings.
It was clear to all who knew him that he was a devoted father and husband, and treasured his family more than anything else in the world. Even as his illness caused him pain, he still put his family first, caring for them and cooking routinely special meals, memorable holiday feasts, and birthday cakes creatively decorated with detail and precision. His daughters remember that if they needed advice, a perspective, or someone to lean on, they could rely on him sharing what he knew, encouraging them to come to their own conclusions, or swooping in with a hug. He valued and respected his children’s individuality, and taught them to be themselves while valuing and respecting the lives and choices of others. His wife remembers his unflagging support and tenderness. If any of his family fell, he knew exactly how to pick them up again.
He pursued knowledge and learning all his life, read deeply on a wide range of subjects, and was a passionate proponent of science education. He also had a love and deep understanding of history, politics, and law. He was inspiringly unafraid to share his strong opinions and incisive commentary, and was an impressive creative and critical writer. His intelligence and expertise, peppered with cheerful sarcasm, made an impression on all who spoke with him.
Tom is remembered by those who love him as a fiercely intelligent social critic, ferocious about fighting injustice and oppression. He was an excellent judge of character, able to see through circumstance, and will be remembered for his warmth and compassion for others in need as much as his sense of whom to stay away from. He was always ready with encouragement or a pep talk for people enduring struggles or those in pain. A friend shares: ‘He was a true freedom fighter and champion for the weak. The world is a little darker knowing he is not in it.’ Tom’s true character was noble and his principles unshakable.
He was also deeply inventive, a writer, painter, designer, and inspired woodworker. He created many beautiful and functional objects for those around him and designed geodesic structures and sculptures. He loved theater and role-playing, and enjoyed a prodigious memory for dialogue. His celebrity imitations were a remarkable source of hilarity, and he was equally gifted at creating his own dramatic voices. These were used to great effect in reading aloud to his family, in amateur theatricals, and his own creative storytelling, which included graphic novels, short fiction, and dystopian role-playing worlds. His singularly goofy sense of humor, witty banter, and sharp sarcasm are much missed by his loved ones.
Tom is survived by his wife of twenty years, Michelle Catlett; his daughters Maria and Lilith; siblings Wendy and Jim; nieces Alicia and Jillian; and nephew Dylan. He has left behind a legacy of laughter and optimism that his family and friends will carry with them forever. He was dearly loved, and is deeply missed.
In lieu of flowers, Tom’s family would appreciate donations to his funerary fund, www.youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/tom-s-funerary-fund/283069 to help with expenses.
Anything additional will go towards therapeutic and educational support for his youngest daughter, Lily, age 15. Alternatively, a donation in Thomas Tetzlaff’s name can be made to a veterans’ organization, such as Strength in Support or Archi’s Acres.