Charles Nelson Beck, 94, a resident of Fergus Falls, died Tuesday, September 12, 2017, at the Broen Home in Fergus Falls.
Charles was born on January 31, 1923 in Fergus Falls, Minnesota to Herman and Nellie (Nelson) Beck. His father was a cabinet maker and from him, Charles learned a respect for hard work as well as an appreciation for wood and for design. Young Charles spent many hours hiking the railroad tracks near his home looking for coal, old bottles and used copper wire to sell downtown. During his teen years he began drawing and assembling model airplanes.
He graduated from Fergus Falls High school in 1941 and from Concordia College in Moorhead in 1948. At Concordia he played football and basketball and worked as an illustrator for the college newspaper. He majored in Art and his college years were most influenced by his art instructor Cyrus Running and football coach, Jake Christiansen.
In 1943, Charles interrupted his college career to enlist in the Naval Air Corps. He trained as a pilot in Florida, California and Michigan. On V-J Day, August 14, 1945, while home on leave, he had his first date with his future life partner, Joyce Hagge. They were married on September 5, 1948 in Fergus Falls. The first two years of their married life they lived in Iowa City, Iowa where Charles completed his Master’s degree in Art at the University of Iowa in 1950.
Returning to their hometown of Fergus Falls, Charles set up a sign painting business. At this same time he worked in his home studio on his oil and watercolor paintings. Over the years he painted bottling company advertising signs, he painted sales signs for the Norby’s and O’Meara’s department stores as well as signs at the top of many local grain elevators. In later years he spent many fall afternoons in the Ford Woody station wagon or Chevy truck, parked along a country road, dabbing oil paint on a small canvas or mixing watercolors to capture the countryside in his art.
Charles enrolled in additional course work at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis during the early fifties. In 1957, the family travelled to Mexico for a three month stay in San Miguel where Charlie studied at the International Art Institute. They made a return trip in 1973 for further study.
In 1960 Beck began teaching art at Fergus Falls Junior College. For 28 years he taught art history, as well as drawing, painting and lettering classes. His desire was to instill an appreciation for art in his students and co-workers. Joyce and he had the opportunity to travel to Europe in 1962. He photographed many of the slides he showed in his classes on this trip and on a later trip to Egypt and Greece. It was an inspiration for him to see and experience so much classic artwork first-hand during these travels. He also worked side by side with his community college colleagues planting the hundreds of trees that now surround the campus.
In addition to students who pursued their artwork and those who valued the creative process, Beck’s legacy is evident through the college’s permanent art collection. In 2007, Minnesota State Community and Technical College-Fergus Falls honored Beck by naming the Charles Beck Gallery in the newly constructed Legacy Hall.
During these years, Beck also exhibited his artwork in various galleries and completed numerous commissioned murals and paintings for area businesses and public places including the Stevens County Court House, Moorhead Public Schools, Pennington County Court House and Otter Tail Power Company, Lake Region Healthcare and Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls.
He served on the Otter Tail County Planning Commission. He also coached VFW baseball. His most proud community achievement was designing the Otter Tail County Historical Museum during the 1970’s. His dream was to see the valued artifacts in the county Court House basement preserved and displayed in a meaningful way. It was gratifying for him to work with other community volunteers to develop and build the museum over a three- year period and the museum’s Agricultural Wing in the early 1980’s.
In 1986 he was inducted into the Fergus Falls Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1979 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Arts Degree from Concordia College and in 2003 was inducted into the Fergus Falls High School Arts Hall of Fame as an outstanding alumnus. Since retiring from the college in 1987, Beck has worked full-time in his home studio.
Until 2009, Charles and Joyce managed a Gallery in their home and welcomed countless visitors to view Charlie’s work. In June 2009, the Kaddatz Galleries was established in Fergus Falls and provided Beck a permanent place to exhibit his artwork.
In August 2013, he experienced a mild stroke and in December of that year became a resident at the Broen Home in Fergus Falls. Beck was encouraged to continue “doing art.” In a studio in the corner of his room he developed a new style of painting that has been enjoyed by staff and residents as well as the community. Exhibiting this work at the Kaddatz in 2016 and 2017 was most satisfying for him.
Charles was always an eager learner as well as a teacher and over the years Joyce and he enjoyed rich friendships with many people. Through his artistic expressions of nature and his teaching of appreciation, Charlie opened the eyes of many to the beauty and intricacies of the world around us.
Grateful for his love and inspiration are his wife of 69 years, Joyce; three children, Karl Beck of Fergus Falls, Carolyn (Don) Glesne of Underwood and Paul (Rhonda) Beck of Lafayette, Colorado; seven grandchildren Lisa Beck (Buzz) Anderson, Kristine Beck (Chad) Welle, Jennifer Glesne, Elizabeth Glesne (Jesse) Huber, John Glesne, Stephen Beck, Aaron Beck; six great-grandchildren, Andrew (Michelle) Anderson, Alex Anderson, Alexis Welle, Levi Welle, Nora Huber, Charles Huber and Haakon Huber; sister Florence Johnson, Fergus Falls; sister-in-law, Joycelyn Beck of Plymouth, Minnesota as well as his treasured nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Linwood Beck; brother-in-law, Elton Johnson and brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Donald and Avis Hagge.
Visitation: Thursday, September 28, 2017, 5-7pm with a public prayer service at 6:30pm at the Olson Funeral Home and resuming one hour prior to the service at the church
Service: Friday, September 29, 2017, 11am at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Fergus Falls
Clergy: Reverends Tom Peterson and Jake Anderson
Interment: Bethlehem Cemetery