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David Carlstrom

David L. Carlstrom, 77, of Concord, Mass., passed away April 11, 2017 at the E.N. Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass.

Dave was born in Buffalo on July 8, 1939, to the late Carl and Ruth (nee Wheeland) Carlstrom. He married Elizabeth “Lilly” Hayes on Nov. 13, 1971 in her hometown of Ruan, County Clare, Ireland.

Dave was raised in Western New York and graduated from Griffith Institute in Springville as co-valedictorian and president of the Student Council in his senior year. He received an honorable mention in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. He was an athlete, placing 10th and 13th in state cross-country meets.

From 1957 until 1961, Dave attended the United States Air Force Academy and earned a Bachelor of Science in public affairs. He was captain of the track team during his senior year and represented Colorado in the Rhodes Scholarship competition. As a member of the academy’s third graduating class, he felt a strong connection to the institute and his classmates, attending reunions until his 50th.

Devoted to his country, Dave served in the Air Force for nearly 25 years. In the 1960s, he was a Military Airlift Command Navigator at Travis Air Force Base in California, serving in C-124, C-135 and C-141 aircraft. He was particularly proud to serve as the Air Force member of the Lockheed flight test crew for the C-141 validating navigation avionics.


From 1967 through 1969, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a Master of Science in electrical engineering. While attending MIT, he met his future wife, Lilly. After graduation, he was stationed overseas at Yokota Air Base in Japan as an aircraft navigator with the 556th Reconnaissance Squadron, serving in RC-130 aircraft, flying missions in Korea and Vietnam.

Returning to the states in 1971, Dave served as an electrical engineer with the 544th Aerospace Reconnaissance Technical Wing at Offutt AFB, where his son Brian was born. The family moved to Norfolk, Va., to attend Armed Forces Staff College.

Dave became a program manager with the Defense Advanced Research Projects agency in 1974, managing artificial intelligence research at top universities such as CMU, MIT and Stanford, particularly in the area of image understanding. He continued his passion for artificial intelligence, and attended AAAI and IJCAI conferences through the 90s.

He returned to flying as squadron navigator in the C-130 aircraft of the 50th Tactical Airlift Squadron at Little Rock AFB in 1978, later becoming headquarters squadron commander of the 314th Tactical Airlift Squadron, responsible for over 1,000 enlisted and officer personnel.

Returning overseas in 1980, Dave became chief of the Osan Air Base’s consolidated command post in South Korea, responsible for all U.S. air forces in Korea. He returned to Andrews AFB in 1981 to roles as Chief of Strategic Defense Division and Director of Mission and Functional Planning at Air Force Systems Command. He retired from the Air Force in 1985 as a colonel, after serving as Chief of Command and Control Division of the Rome Air Force Development Center.

Following his Air Force career, Dave was a PhD candidate at Syracuse University, studying image recognition. He later joined Kaman Sciences, where he continued to pursue this work, leading to a patent on the use of pixel hashing for image recognition. During this time, the family expanded with the arrival of his daughter, Rachael.

The family relocated to Concord, Mass. in 1995, where he continued to work for Kaman until his retirement in 2002. He then volunteered with middle school students as part of the RE-SEED science and technology program.

In addition to his parents, Dave was preceded in death by a brother, Alfred Carlstrom.

Beside his wife, Dave is survived by his children, Brian (Jennifer) Carlsrom of Los Altos Hills, Calif. and Rachael Carlstrom of Acton, Mass.; his grandchildren Michael, Daniel, Elizabeth, Ashley and Audriana and his sister Martha Cary of Boston, N.Y.

Funeral services were held from the Dee Funeral Home in Concord Center, Mass. Burial was in St. Bernard’s Cemetery in Concord, where officers of the U.S. Air Force recognized his honorable service by rendering military honors.

The town flag of Concord, Mass. was flown at half-staff on April 14 in honor of Dave’s faithful service to his country.

Expressions of sympathy may be made to the Bedford VA Hospital, Attn: Voluntary Service, 200 Springs Road, Bedford, MA 01730.

Online condolences may be made at


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