Cover photo for Tony Joseph Strelich's Obituary
Tony Joseph Strelich Profile Photo
1941 Tony 2023

Tony Joseph Strelich

April 16, 1941 — September 9, 2023

Nibley, UT

Tony Joseph Strelich, born April 16th, 1941 in Salt Lake City,  passed unexpectedly from this life to the next on September 9th at home on "the ranch" in Nibley. Those who knew him loved him for his kindness, empathy, and attention to the connections that make us human. His wife Kathleen held his hand and kissed him goodbye as he left us.  Some of his happiest times were spent on their property by the river, and it is fitting he was where he loved to be when he died.  Tony was a warm and loving presence in the lives of his family and those who knew him. He will be deeply missed.

Tony grew up in SLC in a family of 5 boys. His father, Anthony Sr.,  worked on the railroad providing for the family, while his mom, Dorothy, did her best overseeing the antics of Tony Joe and brothers Frankie, Timmy, Mike and Pat. Tony was raised Catholic and attended Judge Memorial High school where he was an impressive athlete and was known to get into some trouble now and again. Let’s just say, his name was well known by Father Kenny.  Tony made lifelong friends at Judge, many of whom remained close 60 years later. 

After high school, Tony tried to build on his success as an athlete and spent a short time playing football in Colorado at a junior college. He quickly realized this was a safe endeavor for someone his size and moved on. He held a few odd jobs before joining the National Guard Special Forces as a Green Beret. We are still amazed that Tony, who has a fear of heights, jumped from airplanes as a paratrooper. After his time in the National Guard and exploring other options, Tony decided to go back to school.  He enrolled at the University of Utah, where he found his passion for sociology and psychology, eventually obtaining his Masters in Social Work in 1967.  

During this time, he met his wife of 57 years, Kathleen, on a blind double date.  During an evening of dinner and dancing, Kathleen was quickly won over by his unique charm and wit. She found him to be the most interesting of the men she had dated and looked forward to seeing him again.  They were married within a year, welcomed their first daughter Jessica, and were on their way to becoming the family they are today. 

In 1970, they packed up 3 year old Jessica and the family moved to Evanston, WY where he worked on the adolescent treatment unit at the Wyoming State Hospital. His duties included making assessments and recommendations for juvenile courts and assisting in the development of drug abuse programs. But it was his one on one work with adolescents, whom he accepted and loved, where he found meaning and purpose. As his professional life was starting to take hold, his personal life saw the addition of Katie. She was born after a routine OB visit to Salt Lake City turned into an induction and quick delivery. Tony hopped in the car and made it to the birth with time to spare. Katie loves hearing the story about how they all drove home 4 days later with her nestled in Kathleen’s lap. This was apparently before car seats. 

One of the most consequential decisions in Tony’s life was when he moved to Cache Valley to enter the PhD program at Utah State. It was during this time that Kathleen and Tony raised and shaped the lives of their daughters and developed friendships that continue to bring them joy and comfort. The family's love of wild places flourished while here with easy access to the Tetons, Yellowstone, and the red rock cathedrals of Southern UT.  In the early years, the kids were routinely packed up in the camper to head out for weekend adventures and later were full participants in camping, hiking, and cross country skiing. They were often joined by friends and family on their travels, making the memories so much sweeter and impactful. His love for outdoor spaces is reflected by the hours spent, with a fly rod in hand, looking out over the rivers and lakes of the Mountain West, waiting for the next bite. These retold stories have become a joyful memory not only for Kathleen, Jessica, and Katie, but also sons-in law, grandkids and many friends. 

But it wasn’t just family and friends that found comfort and an open heart in Tony, it was his clients. He worked for many years as a clinical psychologist in private practice and found it the most rewarding part of his professional career. 

Kathleen and Tony shared a happy marriage in which each was enriched by discovering and embracing the passions of the other.  He was a wonderful father and papa. Maybe it was because of his work with adolescents in his professional life or maybe it was just his nature, but they were always supported and loved for who they were. He shared his love of art and poetry with Sophia and his renegade antics with Avery.  William, his only grandson, learned how to shoot a jump shot from Papa and shares his kind and peaceful manner. Tony was always looking for expressions of the spirit, and found that watching his granddaughter Lauren dance. His family brought him great joy.  

After retirement, his love of poetry and art blossomed. He routinely shared poems with the people in his life, as an expression of love, understanding, and connection. The bookshelves are filled with wonder, joy, sorrow, and beauty, pages earmarked for us to go back to again and again. In the last 6 months of his life he discovered, with guidance from his art teacher at Jump the Moon, his hidden talent for painting. His desert vistas were perfected, reflecting the beauty of the border between land and sky.

Tony had a genuine interest in others which sustained old friendships and led to new friendships later in life, most notably with the young family that moved next door to the ranch. It was here, in the house by the river, that Tony and Kathleen have spent the last 33 years.  Time spent living among the mother deer and her fawn, the songbirds and eagles, the trees and the beauty of the natural world. Here he strived to cherish the moment, walk outside, breathe and find peace.

The family wants to thank all the people in Tony’s life for their companionship, love, and kindness during this difficult time. He cared deeply about each of you. He truly believed in the interconnectedness of us all and our shared humanity. 

A celebration of Tony’s life will be held at Mt. Naomi Vineyards, 4460 N 400 E, Hyde Park, UT 84318, on October 8th, at 1 pm. In lieu of flowers, consider a donation to CRIC (Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection) or plant a tree in his memory.

 

 

When I am Among the Trees
Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurt through the world.
   but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Tony Joseph Strelich, please visit our flower store.

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Celebration of Life

Sunday, October 8, 2023

1:00 - 3:00 pm (Mountain time)

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