Carlson, James Kenneth


(3/31/2020)

James Kenneth Carlson, a former longtime resident of Winona, died peacefully in hospice care in Roseville, Minn., on March 21. He was 95 years old.

Jim was born on June 30, 1924, in Marshalltown, Iowa, the grandson of Swedish immigrants. He graduated from Marshalltown High School in 1942 and enrolled at Iowa State University, but World War II interrupted his college career. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, where his duties included loading ammunition into an anti-aircraft gun and playing the French horn and trombone in the 20-piece on-board band. After his discharge in 1946, Jim resumed his college studies — and started dating MaryEllen Brennan, a high school classmate. Their relationship blossomed, and they married in 1948.

Jim graduated from Iowa State in 1950, with a degree in architectural engineering. At the suggestion of his college classmate Ed Eckert, he took a job in La Crosse with the architectural firm Boyum, Schubert and Sorenson. The company also had an office in Winona, and in 1956, Jim and Ed bought out the Winona practice and formed their own firm, Eckert and Carlson Architects. When that partnership ended in 1969, Jim carried on in solo practice in Winona. Later, from 1983 to 1989, Jim partnered with Owen Warneke, another Winona area architect.

Jim designed, or contributed to the design of, numerous commercial and institutional buildings in Winona and in nearby towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin. These include Pasteur Hall, Kryzko Commons and several other buildings at Winona State University; several churches in southeastern Minnesota; major expansions to the Winona YMCA, the Winona Public Library, and the Winona area American Legion facility; a classroom addition to Central Lutheran Church; the clubhouse at Westfield Golf Course in Winona; Drugan’s Restaurant in Holmen, Wis.; and the Dunn County Courthouse in Menomonie, Wis. By far the biggest project in his career was the new Winona Senior High School, completed in 1967. For this project, Eckert and Carlson were the lead architects, working in conjunction with a specialized firm of national scope that had expertise in educational facilities.

Starting in the 1990s, Jim reduced his workload to part-time but still maintained an active practice. He retired in 2014, on his 90th birthday, and held a party to celebrate the occasion. In all, he practiced architecture for 64 years, 60 of which were in Winona.

Jim and MaryEllen had two sons, Thomas and Philip, both born in La Crosse and raised in Winona. In addition to his family and his work, Jim loved his golf game and his French horn, and he was quite good at playing both. He was a member of the Winona Municipal Band for many years, and he and MaryEllen played in community orchestras and were involved with community theater. Jim was also involved with many other aspects of civic life in Winona, and was a supporter of the county historical society, the YMCA, the American Legion, and Westfield Golf Club, among others.

Jim was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years, MaryEllen. He is survived by his sons, Thomas (Marcia Leonard) of Maplewood, N.J., and Philip (Janet Lawson) of St. Paul; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Donations may be made in Jim’s memory to the Winona State University Department of Music. A memorial concert will be held in Winona at a date to be determined.

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