LeRoy Carlson '55

Nicole Sheldon

God Gives LeRoy a New Vision for Retirement

When most people think of retirement, they dream about endless days of relaxation and fun, choosing what they want to do, and when they want to do it.  Not LeRoy Carlson. When LeRoy was 70, after a full life of pastoring three different churches, and for thirteen years serving as Director of Church Relations and Director of Seminary Development at North Park University and Seminary, he felt called to a new initiative, The Warner E. Sallman Art Collection, Inc. He has been implementing that vision for the past 13 years. 

Warner E. Sallman was a prolific artist and illustrator who produced more than 550 different original art works. His most famous work is the 1940 Head of Christ, which graces the halls of many churches, schools and homes. Newsweek Magazine said it has been reproduced over one billion times around the world.

LeRoy knew two of Sallman’s sons, and they questioned what could be done to ensure that Mr. Sallman and his art would not be forgotten. One cold February night, LeRoy and his wife Colleen were driving to Minneapolis. “It then came to me that I should do something on behalf of Sallman art,” and the above named organization was the result. A corporation and a Board were formed “to extend the legacy of Mr. Sallman by collecting, preserving, and displaying Sallman art.” 

How Do We Ensure That Mr. Sallman And His Art Would Not Be Forgotten? 

LeRoy started presenting art exhibits and a program called The Master Painter. “I have given this program at least 130 times all over the country, and once at Minnehaha.” The collected artworks are stored in Chicago between exhibits. 

Along with the exhibits, programs, and other various tasks, LeRoy also became an unofficial appraiser. “I met a man who found two large Sallman images—one oil and one chalk—in a secondhand shop. They were beautiful original Heads of Christ, the oil originally painted for a men’s ministry in northwest Minneapolis. When the ministry closed, the oil image was brought to Chicago, and during a subsequent location move, two beautiful paintings ended up in a secondhand shop for $125 each. A local photographer bought them, then contacted me and asked if I could appraise them. I had heard from an official appraiser that a Sallman original chalk was set at $35K. So I told the photographer that number, and then priced the oil painting at $100K. Now this photographer, in need of resources, decides to sell them, works at it for a year or two, and finally a famous author buys both! The photographer was pleased and so was the author…now both are my friends.”

Original 'Son of Man' Sallman Painting Has Hung on Minnehaha's Walls For Generations

Warner L Sallman 'Son of Man' chalk painting

Sallman painted an original, 1924 Son of Man for Minnehaha that hung in its Upper School hall. LeRoy remembers seeing it as a student. It now hangs in the alumni/archival area of the rebuilt Upper School. 

LeRoy dreams of having a Sallman museum around the North Park University area for the public to enjoy Sallman’s art and artifacts.

“This is my concern right now, because my next stop is heaven, and I can’t take these images with me, so I’ve got to put them someplace. That is my dilemma, my prayer.” 

In addition to the Sallman project, LeRoy and his wife Colleen have been busy in retirement traveling around the world. They went to Congo where he preached and met with missionaries. In 2006 they went to China and taught English in Beijing. Four times a year they travel out west to visit family. One year, they went to Florida and LeRoy parked cars for the Minnesota Twins Spring Training. “I went to 18 ball games!”  Another year, after Christmas, they went to Pasadena for several days to decorate the Rose Parade float for Lutheran Hour Ministries. 

LeRoy has published a practical book titled What I Wish I Always Knew...178 Tips and Bits of Common Knowledge and Common Sense. Recently, he wrote a book with Sallman images titled Jesus Is a Friend to All with tangible effects to touch, for people with memory loss. He also wrote an autobiography. LeRoy enjoys attending two weekly Bible studies, and regularly walks with Colleen to look for deer in a wooded area near their Chicago home. 

 

 

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